Group gallopers Lucky Patch, Mighty Giant and Kings Shield are among 21 runners that have been withdrawn from Sunday’s Sha Tin meeting as the Jockey Club continues to work through the “multiple issues” stifling its attempts to resume cross-border horse movement.
The Jockey Club has been unable to transport horses between Sha Tin and its mainland China facility in Conghua for over a fortnight, where 272 gallopers are stranded.
“The club received an initial indication from the mainland authorities early this week that the cross-border horse movement might be able to resume for this Sunday but despite the best efforts of all parties, it is not possible,” the Jockey Club said in a statement.
“Multiple issues, including some difficult technical issues, must be addressed. The club will work closely with the relevant mainland authorities at various levels to resolve these issues.
Jockey Club sweats on border impasse ahead of key Champions Day lead-up races
“While there is no definitive timeline as to when cross-border horse movement may resume, the club is fully engaged and aware of the importance of FWD Champions Day on April 24.
“The club would like to apologise to, and seek the understanding of, those horse owners who currently place their horses in Conghua Racecourse.”
Sunday’s meeting features key lead-up races for the three Group One contests on Champions Day, with Lucky Patch missing a run in the Group Two Sprint Cup (1,200m) and Mighty Giant and Kings Shield withdrawn from the Group Two Chairman’s Trophy (1,600m), a race Mighty Giant won last year.
The Chairman's Trophy (G2)— 𝙒𝙤𝙧𝙡𝙙𝙍𝙖𝙘𝙞𝙣𝙜 (@WorldRacing1) April 5, 2021
1600 m, 4.500.000 HKD, for 5yo+
Mighty Giant (AUS)
(5G Power - Wanderov, by Ustinov)
J : @neilcallan78
T : P. Yiu
O : Mr & Mrs Li Ming On
B : Mrs C & L R Beckett pic.twitter.com/0lNMO0bpIr
Sky Field will also miss the Sprint Cup, with trainer Caspar Fownes opting to push straight on to Champions Day with the Group One winner, however Kurpany will take his place despite finishing last on the Sha Tin all-weather track on Wednesday night.
The absence of those runners reduces the Sprint Cup to nine runners and the Chairman’s Trophy to 12.
The club has also announced there will be less races than initially programmed in the coming weeks, with a race cut from the Happy Valley cards on April 13 and 20.
Can Ho lift Sixty?
Vincent Ho Chak-yiu is starting to regain his mojo after a quiet couple of months and Hong Kong racing fans will hope it coincides with a return to the winner’s circle for superstar Golden Sixty.
After starting the season in a similar vein to how he operated while racking up win tallies of 61, 67 and 56 in the previous three campaigns, Ho stopped winning pretty much in unison with his partner in crime.
On leaving the races on January 23 – the day Golden Sixty’s 16-race winning streak came to an end – Ho had 28 winners from 39 meetings and was on track to sail past 60 victories again this season.
Masterwork, over the top! The Nicconi gelding charges to a first win for @Vincenthocy and Me Tsui. #HKracing pic.twitter.com/8xIxsvh1rJ— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) March 30, 2022
What followed was one winner from over 90 rides across a period of nearly two months – including another Golden Sixty loss – and he is now a chance to dip below 50 winners for the season for the first time since 2017-18.
But after saluting aboard Me Tsui Yu-sak’s Masterwork at Sha Tin on Wednesday night, Ho has now landed a winner at the past four meetings and looks to be riding with as much confidence as he has for some time.
It augurs well for this weekend’s Chairman’s Trophy, where Golden Sixty will look to add to his record 19 career wins and springboard into his defence of the Champions Mile on Champions Day.
Ho took the reigning Horse of the Year’s loss in January’s Stewards’ Cup on the chin, shouldering the blame for leaving his charge too much to do, and in February’s Gold Cup Golden Sixty was simply outclassed by Russian Emperor at a distance beyond his best on a yielding track.
😮Waikuku beats Golden Sixty in the Stewards' Cup at Sha Tin! pic.twitter.com/OdlrBVx9WY— At The Races (@AtTheRaces) January 23, 2022
Gate one played a role in that Stewards’ Cup loss, with Ho concerned about being caught in a pocket on the rail had he ridden the backmarker for luck rather than circling the field, and the champion miler again has the inside alley to deal with this weekend.
After that loss Ho said that he had “nothing to lose now, it’s better – I can ride freer and we can do whatever we want now”.
Let’s hope that translates to a more aggressive Ho on Sunday, and the champion miler being given every chance to produce his best yet again.