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Hong Kong Jockey Club

And then there were eight: Numbers dwindle for QE II Cup as Champions Day features decimated by withdrawals

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 April, 2018, 7:56pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 April, 2018, 10:49pm

The Champions Day features were decimated by withdrawals of all three Coolmore entrants and local hope Exultant on Wednesday but the Jockey Club will not add runners to boost the depleted fields for the three Group Ones on April 29.

Coolmore informed the Club that its three horses would not make the trip and when War Decree was withdrawn from the Audemars Piguet QE II Cup and when trainer Tony Cruz took Exultant out later in the day it left the HK$24 million feature with just eight runners for the second straight year.

The other two features weren’t spared either, with the Chairman’s Sprint Prize down to nine runners after Coolmore’s Washington DC came out along with locals Notlistenin’tome and Winner’s Way, and the Champions Mile is down to 10 following Ballydoyle’s decision to not send Lancaster Bomber.

“We won’t be adding runners when there’s really no valid reason to – it wouldn’t be adding to the overall quality of the races,” the Jockey Club’s director of racing Bill Nader said. “With races of this magnitude, we always prefer quality over quantity. Of course we would prefer both full and strong fields, but all three Group Ones are among the world’s top 100 races and maintaining quality is paramount.”

Coolmore trainer Aidan O’Brien told the Jockey Club that his three horses, which had all competed in Dubai and then returned to Ireland, hadn’t pleased him sufficiently since to justify a trip to Sha Tin.

“They’ve been a great supporter of our races, we have a solid connection with Coolmore and we are optimistic that they will be back in December for the International Races,” Nader said.

Cruz said there was nothing amiss with Exultant and the four-year-old’s scratching from the QE II was simply a scheduling decision.

After a dour effort over 2,200m last weekend Cruz decided to step up in trip for the Group Three Queen Mother Memorial Cup on May 6 and then the Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup over the same distance three weeks later.

“I pulled him out as I’m going to head to those staying races and I didn’t want to risk another run between now and then. There just isn’t enough time,” Cruz said. “We could all see that he needs more ground now – that was 2,200m and it was too short for him – so I’m going to look for further. He wouldn’t be able to go with those horses over 2,000m in the QE II anyway.”

The QE II is the worst affected race with John Moore having already taken Ruthven out on Tuesday because of veterinary regulations, but the trainer also took Not Listenin’tome from the sprint yesterday.

Moore usually has the most numbers of any trainer in Group One races but Not Listenin’tome’s absence leaves him in the unfamiliar situation of having just three horses, Beauty Generation and Helene Paragon in the Champions Mile, plus Eagle Way in the QE II, across the three Group Ones.

Unlike Ruthven, Not Listenin’tome is not suffering any veterinary ailments and Moore will simply look for softer options with a horse that hasn’t won since November 2016 and been unplaced at his last seven starts.

“He is battling a bit in these top races and now his rating is down to 114 he is actually eligible for something easier so we will do that instead and try to get him back in the winner’s circle,” Moore said.