CONTROVERSY broke out yesterday when the main overseas challengers for December's showpiece International Cup and Bowl races were announced. Last season's Cup winner Romanee Conti has been denied the right to defend her crown, while leading Australian trainers are furious over the nomination of a ''Kiwi'' horse to represent Australia in the Bowl. Romanee Conti, despite beating Arc winner Urban Sea and Caulfield Cup winner Fraar in last April's Cup and then lifting a Group Two event on her resumption, languishes on the New Zealand reserve list for the Cup behind Cox Plate also-ran Kiwi Golfer. Laurie Laxon, who sent out Romanee Conti for her pulsating, last-gasp defeat of Fraar, admitted: ''It's a shade disappointing. I thought she had done enough. She won the race last year and resumed recently from a six-month spell to win a Group Two weight-for-age race against a high-quality field.'' Laxon will now have to see if Kiwi Golfer makes it to the race, but the horse was being set for it before the 'flu virus forced the postponement of the Cup and Bowl last December and, barring accidents, Kiwi Golfer is an intended runner. The selection of Capestad as the Australian runner in the Bowl was just as controversial and soured what should have been an upbeat day for the territory's window to the racing world. The four-year-old is New Zealand-bred, is owned by leading New Zealand trainer Alan Jones and raced in New Zealand until moving to Brisbane for their winter carnival where he is handled by recently-settled New Zealander Gary Stewart. Leading Sydney handler Billy Mitchell, who trained Livastona Lane to run a close second to Kessem in the 1990 Invitation Cup, was mystified by the selection of Capestad. He said: ''Capestad is a good horse, don't get me wrong. But he is New Zealand-bred, New Zealand-owned and his trainer, Gary Stewart, is a New Zealander. And you can bet your bottom dollar that he will be ridden by a New Zealander. ''This is not sour grapes because my mare [Let's Hurry] is fourth reserve and will not get a run. ''It's just that myself and other trainers feel that we don't need what is essentially a Kiwi horse representing Australia. ''This is going to cause a bit of upset especially as there are a number of horses which would have been really competitive in the Bowl and would genuinely represent Australia.'' Mitchell added: ''I just can't understand what the thinking is behind this and I'm not the only one. I know that Lee Freedman has also been on to the handicapper down here about it.'' Such is the strength of feeling among Australian trainers and the prominence the Hong Kong races hold in their racing calendar, it is likely that calls for an overhaul of their selection policy will follow from Capestad's nomination. Victoria Racing Club handicapper Jim Bowler currently handles the Australian runners and Dean Newl the New Zealand ones. Trainers may ask for a panel of three experts to take over the selection procedure. As expected Royal Ascot winner Alflora has got a run in the Cup for globe-trotting English trainer Clive Brittain. Alflora's recent French conqueror, Voleris, is an intended runner in the Bowl for John Hammond who sent out Sauve Dancer to win the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe and Dear Doctor to win the Arlington Million. The Bowl also sees a very useful English challenger in the shape of Swing Low from champion trainer Richard Hannon's yard. Swing Low was a very gutsy winner of the Group Two Celebration Mile at Goodwood last month.