Not many were following the news of Ballydoyle’s withdrawal from Sunday’s Group One Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe meeting in Paris closer than those at the Hong Kong Jockey Club.
The powerhouse stables of Aidan, Joseph and Donnacha O’Brien withdrew their horses on Saturday night after testing positive to prohibited substance Zilpaterol following a feed-related issue.
With the Hong Kong International Races meeting in December, the Jockey Club is keen to throw its significant weight around when it comes to attracting overseas runners in the four features on the day.
There is a HK$97 million pot of gold at the end of the rainbow in the Cup, Mile, Sprint and Vase in a year which has seen the mega-rich Dubai World Cup meeting canned and Royal Ascot run at slashed prize money levels.
“I feel for them in France, it is unfortunate,” Jockey Club director of racing business and operations Bill Nader said following news of the mass scratchings.
“The whole thing doesn’t hurt our position, if you have a horse that is ready to go in a big race like the Arc and that has been taken away, there are only a few options left this season.
“You have British Champions Day, Breeders Cup, Hong Kong and also the Japan Cup.”
Nader confirmed the Jockey Club had been in touch with Coolmore regarding the possibility of bringing horses to Hong Kong, which could include some scratched Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe runners.
Announcement on tomorrow’s runners pic.twitter.com/vG1BOPeHvr— Ballydoyle Racing (@Ballydoyle) October 3, 2020
“The potential opportunities are limited [for those horses],” Nader said. “We have had great conversations with Aidan and his team, I am sure Coolmore will be here in a big way come December if everything is set to go. If you look at the year in its totality, you had the meeting in Dubai called off late, Royal Ascot had the prize money vastly reduced, so from the conversations people have had with us … the indications are good.
“With [HKIR], they recognise it is money in the bank, it is guaranteed, they will get a first-class experience and they know what they’re getting, the ground will be good.
“There is a lot of certainty around our race meeting, the only uncertainty is what it looks like in regards to the pandemic, that is the one variable we can’t control.
“We are moving ahead with every indication that we are going to have international horses.”
Calls are expected to be made earlier than usual from the Jockey Club on who will be running on their marquee day with Covid-19 adding an extra layer of complexity to the whole situation.
They are currently locked in negotiations with the Hong Kong government over what hoops overseas participants would have to jump through to race on the day.
Gran Alegria impresses in Japan
While the Ballydoyle brigade are high on the Jockey Club’s priorities for HKIR, Japanese filly Gran Alegria could have rocketed to the top of their list after her devastating victory in the Group One Sprinters Stakes (1,200m) on Sunday.
The Group One Yasuda Kinen (1,600m) winner has emerged as one of the powerhouse gallopers coming out of Japan and Jockey Club officials will be quick to pick up the phone to see what trainer Kazuo Fujisawa’s plans are.
JPN(Nakayama)4/10/2020 :(GR.1) Gran Alegria (Deep Impact/ Topitsfly By Tapit)— Naheez Stables مربط نحيز ( ظفار ) (@musallamqatan) October 4, 2020
Wins The Sprinters Stakes
3 years old & upwards
O : Sunday Racing Co. Ltd.
T : Kazuo Fujisawa
J : Christophe Lemaire
2nd : Danon Smash
3nd : A Will A Way
4nd : Mr Melody pic.twitter.com/nc87OvwoA2
“She is outstanding, she could run in either the Mile or the Sprint,” Nader said following her win. “She is top class, she is fresh too, she hasn’t had a tough campaign, I would love to see her come here.”
While Hong Kong-based sprinters are notoriously hard to beat on their home patch, 2020 could prove to be a golden opportunity with a host of the well-established sprinting stars missing.
The Magic Man says yes
Superstar jockey Joao Moreira believes emerging prospect Excellent Proposal will be hard to beat in the four-year-old series after impressing again at Sha Tin on Sunday.
The four-year-old is building a picket fence next to his name with three consecutive wins this season and is clearly the top seed for March’s Derby at this early stage.
Moreira, who has ridden many of the early contenders, believes the John Size galloper ticks a lot of boxes.
“Behind the gates, I could feel that he knew what he had to do,” he said. “He was just so relaxed. When I got him into the clear, he strode out like a good horse. It’s just a matter of time before he gets to those big races against his own age group and he will be hard to beat.”
Size has seen all he needs to see from Excellent Proposal and will give him a rest before January’s Classic Mile.
“It was a workmanlike win but he is on 99 [rating] now I suppose,” Size said. “The figure is pretty high for what I want to do so I couldn’t be happier with that.
“As long as he could get somewhere near 100, that is all I can achieve so now I will review what I have done with him and look at what’s in the programme in the future but he will be having some sort of rest to let him catch up to his rating.”
With some Derby-bound imports yet to even barrier trial in Hong Kong, Excellent Proposal has time on his hands while his rivals will be relying on a faultless preparation.
Yung breaks duck with double
Benno Yung Tin-pang went into Sunday’s Sha Tin meeting winless for the season but left with two victories next to his name thanks to two of his stable favourites.
Old timer You Have My Word saluted in the Class Five Yi O Handicap (1,800m) after an injury-interrupted season in 2019-20 and Cruising put the cherry on top in the Class Three Fan Lau Handicap (1,000m), notching up his second win in his fourth season in Hong Kong.
The six-year-old has been continually struck down by injuries with Sunday marking just his 11th start so Yung was justifiably chuffed when Zac Purton steered the son of Danerich to victory.
“It is fantastic, especially with these two horses, they have both had injuries in the past,” he said.
“Cruising had a tendon issue so he took a long time to recover and then when they come back you don’t know if it will happen again, that is the problem.”
The in-form trainer will take just two gallopers to Happy Valley on Wednesday in Nextmodel and Flying Monkey.