There is something intrinsically wrong with a system that allows emerging four-year-old Art Trader to miss a start in Sunday's $14 million Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong Derby. At Jockey Club headquarters, there seems to be an air of resignation about the situation that will see this quality galloper, specifically purchased with the Derby in mind, at home in his stall. Meanwhile, that afternoon we will be confronted with a Derby field absolutely littered with non-stayers like the admirable Fifty Fifty, a tough and consistent gelding whose specialist distance is 1,400 metres but whose 97 rating sees him narrowly over the qualifying threshold. The problem, for Art Trader, came as a result of an otherwise laudable decision by senior handicapper Ciaran Kennelly to give the European imports a substantial slice of ratings relief, in order to accelerate the rate at which they settle into Hong Kong. Year after year, horse after horse, we see British four-year-olds come here and fail to measure up to their official UK ratings. So Kennelly, sensibly, decided to level the playing field for these horses and give them a better chance to score an early win, at the same time giving the owners the opportunity of clawing back something of their significant investment. The problem is that a horse like Art Trader, who arrived with an international rating of 101, is discounted on day one by 17 points and suddenly some 11 points below the Derby cut-off mark. So, trainer John Moore and owner David Boehm decided the best way to get him into the Derby was to win the newly programmed preparatory race at Sha Tin on February 20 - a race specifically designed for Derby horses to air their credentials. Because the demand for places in the Derby field was high, entries for the race were strong in both quality and quantity, so the Club came to the party and divided the race. Art Trader won his division by one length from five-year-old Liberal's Choice, and Kennelly boosted his rating from 84 to 91. In recent years, we have heard the line that to get into the Derby field, the first criteria is the horse's rating, the second is current form, and the third consideration is form at or around the Derby distance of 2,000m. So how unfortunate is Art Trader to be overlooked? In England, Art Trader raced just four times but at the last of those appearances won a strong three-year-old handicap (for ratings 0-110) at Goodwood. This was the race won 12 months earlier by Tiber, also purchased by Moore. Tiber, assessed by Racing Post (UK) as rating 113+ at Goodwood, came to Hong Kong and won at his second start here before progressing to land the Group One Classic Mile and ultimately finishing an every-chance second to Lucky Owners in the Derby. Art Trader was rated lower by Racing Post (108+) than Tiber but it was still a superior performance, defeating 15 rivals by a comfortable 11/4 lengths, with runner-up Fine Silver going on to be placed in that famous heritage handicap, the Cambridgeshire. Art Trader, in common with so many UK imports, took a little while to find his feet in the Far East but nowhere near as long as some. He stood there when the gates opened at his second Hong Kong start on February 2 and missed the start six lengths, but was ultimately beaten just 53/4. But at his next start - only his third on Hong Kong soil - he won a race specifically designed for Derby horses. His margin was not big but, coming off a moderate pace, it could not be, with a compressed spread of margins being the norm for such races. The only thing that has stopped Art Trader qualifying for the Hong Kong Derby is his 91 rating, a figure that was artificially compressed at the time of his arrival. Tiber, arriving in the autumn of 2003 before the UK ratings were discounted, started his Hong Kong career on a rating of 98. Art Trader, assessed five pounds his inferior after their respective Goodwood performances, started here as an 84 horse. Moore and Boehm have shown extraordinary good grace about the whole episode but the owner, in particular, is entitled to be in a rage. He has bought the right horse, for the right reasons, and won the race the Jockey Club specifically programmed for Derby-bound horses. All the promises of a new, improved Derby lead-up programme next year can't change the fact that the Jockey Club failed Boehm, Moore and Art Trader. This was one horse that was absolutely entitled to be given his Derby chance.