The Jockey Club will back its processes against the threat of equine influenza (EI) after the British Horseracing Authority cancelled all racing on Thursday, with three cases of the deadly virus detected among vaccinated horses in an active yard.
Despite the fact concerns have been raised that it could potentially be a new strain of EI which is yet to be vaccinated for, horses making the trip from Europe to Hong Kong are unlikely to be delayed at this stage.
“There is no reason to expect there to be a delay at this point,” Jockey Club executive director of racing Andrew Harding said.
“It’s of interest to us that it is in vaccinated horses, so that is something we are following closely. It doesn’t concern us however in terms of our own arrangements.
“Our arrangements in terms of the facilities and the systems are geared for a horse that arrives here with EI.
“We have planned on the assumption that a horse could arrive here with EI, everything we have done in terms of the facilities, the arrangements we have, the amount of time they spend at pre-export quarantine, is all geared for the contingency that a horse that is infected with EI does get shipped here.”
As the former Australian Racing Board chief executive, Harding has a wealth of experience on the topic after he was on the front line in 2007 during an outbreak in Australia which caused havoc.
With stringent procedures in place in Hong Kong however, Harding said specific horses who arrived from the UK last month would not be placed under extra supervision.
“We have been monitoring them constantly anyway. Part of the arrangement, not just for horses in quarantine, is that they have their temperature taken twice a day, which is your best indicator,” he said.
“We are not concerned but we are alive to what has happened there [UK], we are monitoring it closely.”
Concerns were immediately raised in the UK after horses from the infected yard competed at two different tracks on Wednesday, potentially exposing many more horses to EI across Great Britain and Ireland.
Thursday’s fixtures at Huntingdon, Doncaster, Ffos Las and Chelmsford City were cancelled.
“The fact that the cases have been identified in vaccinated horses presents a cause for significant concern over welfare and the potential spread of the disease,” the BHA said on their website.
The BHA said it was working with the Animal Health Trust and would inform potentially exposed yards to ensure quarantine and biosecurity measures.
Yip brings the purple rain
The bright pink blossom display stood out among a sea of punters at a packed Sha Tin racecourse on Thursday but trainer Dennis Yip Chor-hong’s eye-catching purple suit was not far behind.
And at a meeting where luck was the order of the day, the sharp outfit seemed to work for Yip as Splendour And Gold surged to victory in the Class Four Lucky Star Handicap (1,400m).
Yip was visibly thrilled to bring in the Year of the Pig with a victory and said he hopes it augurs well for the year ahead.
“Hopefully this means there is more winners to come,” the 51-year-old said.
After finishing third on debut on January 12, Splendour And Gold jumped a $4.5 favourite under Umberto Rispoli.
The Italian jockey had to negotiate some heavy traffic at the turn but found clear air 300m from home and Splendour And Gold rattled home to edge out Win Win.
“In his first start he came from behind over 1,200m and caught up eight or nine lengths, he did the last 400m quite fast, so this time I stepped him up to 1,400m so hopefully he could travel easier,” Yip said.
Yip is confident he has a very nice type on his hands and is looking forward to seeing what he can do over even further ground.
“I think he looks like he can stay longer, but I will give him time,” Yip said. “I think further will be better, today you could see he didn’t travel, he needed to be pushed all the way but the horse has a very good fighting heart. I’m happy with him.”
Clipperton back in the winner’s circle
Sam Clipperton didn’t have to wait too long to return to the winner’s circle after moving back to Australia from Hong Kong, guiding home Swiss at Kembla Grange on Tuesday.
It was the 25-year-old’s third meeting back, but it was his first real chance to land a blow after partnering a host of outsiders.
Interestingly enough, the horse was prepared by someone who also had a Hong Kong connection in Michael Freedman and his new training partner Edward O’Rourke.
Clipperton, who collected 62 winners in Hong Kong, has six rides at Canterbury Park on Friday night and another four at Warwick Farm on Saturday.
Blizzard storms home in Singapore
Former Hong Kong galloper Blizzard secured his first victory in his new home of Singapore, taking out the Group Three Fortune Bowl on Wednesday.
Blizzard, who won seven races during his career at Sha Tin when prepared by Ricky Yiu Poon-fai, while also finishing third in the 2017 Group One Hong Kong Sprint, dived late under the urgings of Daniel Moor to collect the prize for his new trainer Lee Freedman.
“He needed his first two runs here. He didn’t handle the Polytrack either,” Freedman said.
“But I knew the 1,400m would suit him better. His trackwork form was good. I’m so thrilled it’s worked out well and I think he’ll be a force to reckon with over the mile.”
Vale Oriental Express
The 1997-98 Hong Kong Horse of the Year Oriental Express has died after succumbing to a tumour.
The son of Green Desert raced as Desert Boy in Britain before making the move to Sha Tin where he won the 1997 Hong Kong Derby at just his second start in his new home.
Trained by Ivan Allan, who described Oriental Express as the best horse he ever trained, he won Group Ones over from 1,200m (the 1998 Chairman’s Prize) to 2,400m (the 1999 and 2001 Champions & Chater Cup), as well as the 1998 QE II Cup (2,000m).
The Larry Yung Chi-kin-owned gelding returned to England after his racing career, spending the last seven years being looked after in Essex.