The Dubai World Cup meeting is the latest major sporting event to be cancelled in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The organisers notified participants on Sunday evening, explaining that it simply couldn’t go ahead in the current environment.
“Due to the ongoing health implications of the coronavirus and precautionary measures being implemented by the UAE government, the organising committee regrets to announce the cancellation of the Dubai World Cup 2020 meeting at Meydan racecourse,” the letter said.
Hong Kong-based horses Big Time Baby and Elusive State only arrived there this weekend after days of uncertainty about if they would be able to travel, given the recent restrictions imposed. The challenge will now be getting them home.
Earlier this week, star jockey Joao Moreira, who collected a double on Sunday, withdrew from the meeting because of the quarantine restrictions that would have been imposed on him on his return to Hong Kong.
The Dubai World Cup card was meant to be simulcast by the Jockey Club.
Hall and his equine namesake bounce back
David Hall is back on his feet after operations on both of his knees and there is no better painkiller than collecting a winner.
The Australian had surgery earlier this month and missed a few meetings as he recovered, but he made his return to the track on Wednesday and was at Sha Tin on Sunday to see London Hall take out the Class Three Akeed Mofeed Handicap (2,000m).
“Feeling a lot better now – it’s amazing what a winner does,” Hall laughed.
“I had a chip in the right knee and a big tear in the meniscus and the same in the left knee. I just had them cleaned up and hopefully now David Hall can be as good as London Hall.”
London Hall is no stranger to the operating theatre either, after having throat surgery in September 2018.
The five-year-old has now strung together back-to-back wins and the punters were pleased with the outcome as he was brown-lamped into $8 in the last minute of betting.
“It’s a good result for this horse because Dr Paul Robinson did a tie-back operation on him and not too many stayers that have a wind operation get to that sort of level,” Hall said.
“He’s a big, long-striding horse – he can probably handle both tracks but he just needs the races. He could run 2,400m on his ear but we’ll have to see how far he can go and what the programme will bring up.
“Today’s race was quite a solid race because they don’t have too many of them.”
Owners, stay out
Owners will be banned from visiting their horses at their Sha Tin stables under new rules introduced by the Jockey Club to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
The club has gone to great lengths to keep a quarantine “bubble” intact around the racing community and officials say the latest move will keep owners away from key racing personnel.
Owners have previously been able to organise stable visits with trainers to see their horses but won’t be able to for the foreseeable future.
They have also been restricted in where they can watch barrier trials, with the Jockey Club mandating that they cannot enter the mounting area.
Many owners often make the trip to Sha Tin to see their horse trial on a Tuesday or Friday morning to get feedback from jockeys and trainers, but they will now be forced to watch from the grandstands.
The measures are the latest of a raft introduced by the Jockey Club in an attempt to keep racing going in Hong Kong while most major sports around the world have been forced to close.
He is most certainly not a Beauty (for punters)
You could almost hear the remotes embedding themselves in television screens around the globe as $3.10 chance Heza Beauty went under on Sunday, with favourite backers forced to sit through the most sickening watch of the season.
After Heza Beauty reared in the gates and missed the start by at least five lengths in the Class Four Ping Hai Star Handicap (1,400m), Joao Moreira was forced to work hard to tack the three-year-old onto the back of the field with 800m to run.
Forced to ride for luck, Moreira followed the rail before pulling off the fence at the top of the straight in search of a run.
After meeting heavy traffic 300m from home, Moreira took Heza Beauty even wider and the John Size-trained gelding was finally able to build some momentum, monstering the line to finish only a length behind winner Tung Wah Glory.
It was the second time in as many starts Heza Beauty has made life hard for himself after he lunged at the gates and began slowly when fifth two weeks ago.
He’ll no doubt start at prohibitive odds next time out and it’s only a matter of time before he wins – something that will provide absolutely no solace to those who saw their hard-earned disappear in the worst possible fashion on Sunday.
Isolation leaves many watching on TV
Tight restrictions put in place by the Jockey Club in addition to a new spate of Covid-19 infections left many – including the SCMP team – watching Sunday’s races on TV.
All 1,017 on course had to sign health declarations – they could not have travelled in the past 14 days or had any contact with any positive cases – which ruled out a lot of key people from attending.
The most high-profile of those being chief steward Kim Kelly, who visited his family in Australia last week before this situation exploded again.
He was stuck watching in a hotel room “self-isolating”, missing his first Hong Kong Derby since joining the Jockey Club at the start of the 2002-03 season, and he found it very strange.
“Other than holidays or a conference I have never missed a race meeting,” Kelly said. “Never had a single sick day since starting work in January 1985.”
In Kelly’s absence, Steve Railton took the reins for the meeting – just as he did on Wednesday night.
Purchase the China AI Report 2020 brought to you by SCMP Research and enjoy a 20% discount (original price US$400). This 60-page all new intelligence report gives you first-hand insights and analysis into the latest industry developments and intelligence about China AI. Get exclusive access to our webinars for continuous learning, and interact with China AI executives in live Q&A. Offer valid until 31 March 2020.