Hong Kong horses will not compete in Dubai or Saudi Arabia next month with the connections determining the risk of travel is simply too high amid the uncertainty of Covid-19.
With the Hong Kong government classifying the United Arab Emirates “very high risk”, those who travelled horses potentially faced six weeks in quarantine if their classification was to suddenly change to “extremely high risk”.
Trainer Tony Millard declined a Group Two Godolphin Mile invitation for his dirt specialist Elusive State while Tony Cruz passed up the opportunity to run 2019 Hong Kong Derby winner Furore in the Group One Dubai Turf (1,800m) on March 27.
“Just two horses got invited, there was Elusive State to the Godolphin Mile and Furore to the Dubai Turf,” said Jockey Club director of racing business and operations Bill Nader after six horses were originally entered from Hong Kong.
“Tony Cruz thought it was too risky along with the prospect of quarantine. With Dubai now classified as very high risk, he weighed it up and decided against it. You can go in there at the moment, it is just if it goes to extremely high risk it gets risky because you might not be allowed into Hong Kong.”
With a dearth of dirt races available to high-rated Hong Kong horses, Nader revealed the Jockey Club was contemplating the possibility of putting on a race for the likes of Elusive State and Frankie Lor Fu-chuen’s Kings Shield to compensate for the lack of overseas opportunities.
“We are talking about potentially looking at the race programme and doing something towards the end of March, a dirt race that would help a few horses out,” he said. “We will talk about it in the coming week.”
While Millard had a preference to run Elusive State in the US$20 million Saudi Cup, the lack of a quarantine arrangement between Saudi Arabia and Hong Kong meant that was not possible.
With dreams of turning the mega-rich event into a Group One contest next year, Nader said there were hopes of having horse travel protocols in place by then.
“It is between the AFCD [Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department] and the current partner in Saudi reaching an agreement on protocol to travel horses,” he said. “It needs to be on both sides but it takes time. It is basically a travel protocol that allows them to accept horses from Hong Kong and then the other way.
“They have a standard quarantine in place but they can’t accept a horse from Hong Kong. They can from Japan and other places but they still don’t have Hong Kong down. Our regulators here are ready to help when the Saudi side start the process.”
Big Win for Man’s debutant, but no Fortune
A change in stable couldn’t bring the best out of one-time boom horse Joyful Fortune as Manfred Man Ka-leung’s debutant Trillion Win sprang an upset in the Class Three Tuen Mun Handicap (1,000m).
Having his first start for Tony Cruz, punters sent Joyful Fortune out a $1.8 favourite expecting to see something resembling his stunning win at the end of last season, but they were left disappointed when he could only manage fourth with Joao Moreira in the saddle.
Instead it was Trillion Win who came out on top at $25, Matthew Chadwick taking him straight to the front – a position he stayed in throughout.
The son of Proisir won two of his six starts in New Zealand when known as Destination and had flashed ability in his two Hong Kong trials with Moreira aboard.
But with the Magic Man opting to partner Joyful Fortune, Man assumed he was racing for second and was pleasantly surprised with the result.
“It was better than what I expected, because it was his first start and his overseas record says 1,200m [is his best distance],” Man said. “Joao gave up this one to ride another [Joyful Fortune], so I thought his other horse was better. I think he’s still got a lot of improvement in him, he showed everyone he’s got good quality.”
Unlucky Sugar gets a sweet return
Jimmy Ting Koon-ho had been cursing his luck up until Saturday when his progressive galloper My Sugar was the recipient of a change in fortune.
The four-year-old was given no chance last start after drawing the car park, but he had it all go his way at once after drawing barrier one and seeing his key rival run off the track twice in the straight.
Karis Teetan looked certain to win aboard the John Size-trained Silver Express with 300m to go, but the Mauritian became a passenger as the four-year-old veered in and out repeatedly to throw the race away.
“In the straight I thought ‘oh no, we’ve lost’ but then suddenly [Teetan] was all over the place,” Ting said of My Sugar, who was hard up against the rail with Zac Purton aboard.
“He is a very honest horse who has just been unlucky because last time he drew barrier 14. This time he had the good luck twice because he drew barrier one and then the other horse was too green, if he did not run about I think we would have lost the race.”
Ting believes his son of Deep Field will be able to step up to the 1,600m trip if required.
“Zac said that our horse was still green as well, he was scared of the fence so I think next time he will improve some more too,” he said. “We think that 1,400m or 1,600m will be good for him, either doesn’t matter.”
Chan feels stewards’ wrath again
Alfred Chan Ka-hei and Alex Lai Hoi-wing felt the wrath of the stewards on Saturday as both jockeys were slapped with careless riding charges.
Lai was given a two-meeting suspension for his ride aboard Moon Peaks in the Class Five Kam Tin Handicap (1,200m) while Chan copped a three-meeting ban for his ride aboard Valiant Elegance in the Class Four Mai Po Handicap.
The suspension marked Chan’s fifth of the season with the 26-year-old averaging a ban once every 21 rides at the halfway point of the term.