Top Australian sprinters Brave Smash and Viddora will be denied the opportunity to race in next month’s Group One Chairman’s Sprint Prize (1,200m) at Sha Tin due to an unforeseen quarantine technicality.
Interim measures agreed upon between Australia and Hong Kong earlier this month will not allow horses currently in Dubai for this week’s World Cup meeting to stop by Hong Kong and immediately re-enter Australia.
The basic measures mean horses can only travel from Australia to Hong Kong and straight back to Australia with government officials on high alert to the threat of Equine Influenza from China.
Jockey Club officials confirmed the situation on Sunday.
The Post understands connections of Brave Smash and Viddora have only recently become aware of the rule with both previously expressing their desire to race in the Al Quoz Sprint in Dubai on Saturday night before travelling to Hong Kong.
While the withdrawal of the two dual Group One winners is a blow, Jockey Club executive director of racing Andrew Harding has previously said it held a long-term view in regards to quarantine agreements between the two jurisdictions.
“I expect many Australian trainers will have already planned their autumn campaigns including whether to vaccinate and horses travelling here in April would be a windfall, but let’s see,” he said earlier this month.
Current interim measures also mean a Hong Kong horse would be unable to travel freely to Australia without stopping in a third country for a period of 180 days.
Interim measures may soon be a thing of the past, however, with a major step towards a final resolution being taken recently.
The Australian Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (DAWR) has received all of the requested documents from Chinese authorities regarding the Conghua region and training facility.
The paperwork means work can be finalised on restoring previous agreements between the two jurisdictions with insiders hopeful of a deal by the end of the year.
Van Niekerk cops whack on busy day for stewards
South African rider Grant van Niekerk felt the wrath of the stewards in a big way after copping a four-meeting suspension for failing to ride out Little General in the Class Four Jordan Handicap (1,400m) at Sha Tin on Sunday.
The first-season jockey was rattling home on the lightly raced Danny Shum Chap-shing-trained galloper but was just nosed out into fourth position on the line.
Van Niekerk pleaded guilty to the charge which states every jockey shall ride out their mount all the way to the end of the race to the satisfaction of the stewards.
It marked a busy day for chief steward Kim Kelly and his team with Silvestre de Sousa, Matthew Poon Ming-fai and Regan Bayliss all receiving two meeting suspensions.
They also overturned the result of the Class Three Hillwood Handicap after receiving an objection from fourth placegetter Martin Harley on Seven Heavens.
O’Sullivan brothers team up for promising pair
Trainer Paul O’Sullivan has said all season that his winners will come late and he is beginning to deliver.
The Kiwi had an impressive win on Sunday with his second-starter Band Of Brothers who he received from his brother Lance in New Zealand.
Band Of Brothers is just one of a strong crop of young horses for O’Sullivan, who looks set to make sure the back end of his season is much more enjoyable than the start.
“He was in my brother’s stable and he trialled him, then he rung me and said you have to get this, it is an ideal Hong Kong horse. The group of guys were looking for a horse and they liked the look of him, so that’s how it happened,” he said.
O’Sullivan also picked up the promising Chicken Dance at the same time, who posted a fast-finishing second on debut earlier this month.
“When I went back in July, Lance said those were the two that had to come up, Chicken Dance is a pretty smart type, he hasn’t won yet but is very nice,” he said.
The win on Band Of Brothers made up part of jockey Zac Purton’s treble on the day, with the Australian also booting home Natural Flare and Chung Wah Spirit.
Japanese sprinter Mr Melody to head overseas
An overseas trip beckons for Takamatsunomiya Kinen champion Mr Melody and it could come as early as next month’s Group One FWD Chairman’s Sprint Prize at Sha Tin.
The four-year-old colt, who started at $8.60 with the Jockey Club, collected his first major at Chukyo on Sunday, beating Seiun Kosei and Shonan Anthem with favourite Danon Smash coming fourth.
Trainer Hideaki Fujiwara was thrilled with the performance but given there are only two Group One sprints in Japan every year, he will look at other options abroad.
“We’ll look at going overseas in the future,” Fujiwara said after the race.
Mr Melody has been nominated for the Chairman’s Sprint Prize on April 28, along with seven of his compatriots, so it certainly wouldn’t be a shock to see him make the trip to Hong Kong.
Punters get one more look at champion Winx
Mighty Australian mare Winx extended her unbeaten run to 32 with another flawless effort in the Group One George Ryder Stakes at Rosehill Gardens on Saturday, but Hong Kong punters will be able to see her one last time before she is expected to bow out next month.
The Jockey Club has been given approval to simulcast the Group One Queen Elizabeth Stakes meeting from Royal Randwick on Saturday, April 13.
Winx is chasing a third straight win in the Queen Elizabeth, with connections strongly hinting she will retire afterwards.
This is the second time the Jockey Club has added a simulcast meeting at the last minute set to feature the Australian superstar after doing likewise before the Cox Plate in October.