THE JAPANESE ARE COMING!
It has long been recognized and acknowledged that the elite Japanese racehorses are just that – Elite.
They have convincingly demonstrated their world class credentials in recent years by their successes on the International stage – in Hong Kong, Australia and Dubai and domestically in their high quality and high rating International Group Ones.
But there is one coveted International Group One and one global racing stage that has eluded the elite Japanese thoroughbred, their owners and trainers.
It is perhaps the most coveted race of them all in the northern hemisphere – the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
The “Arc” as it is commonly and affectionately referred to by racing aficionados is arguably one of the world’s greatest races.
Run at France’s famous Longchamp racecourse, three top class Japanese racehorses El Condor Pasa, Nakayama Festa and, just recently, Orfevre, have come back to the runner up stalls at Longchamp, with the latter being the bridesmaid twice.
After four seconds in Europe’s greatest race, the Japanese are overdue to win it.
This year, the Japanese are gang tackling the Arc with Just A Way, the world’s highest rating racehorse leading the challenge with Group One winners Harp Star and Gold Ship a more than formidable support cast.
And what a race the Arc is shaping up to be with last year’s winner and champion race mare Treve, Coolmore’s champion three year old Australia, German champion three year old Sea The Moon, heading a European contingent that may also include Magician (stablemate of Australia) and a swag of serious Group one contenders from France and the UK.
The Japanese horses are also returning to Melbourne for this year’s spring carnival with Admire Rakti, below, and Bande both in quarantine and both scheduled to run in the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups.
Zac Purton has a confirmed booking for Admire Rakti in both Cups and Christophe Lemaire has a confirmed booking for Bande.
Both horses are high quality stayers and on track to emulate Delta Blues who became the first Japanese bred, owned and trained racehorse to win the Melbourne Cup.
The Japanese challenge won’t end in Melbourne.
Japanese racehorses have a great record in Hong Kong at the International carnival, and Japanese owners and trainers are great fans and supporters of Hong Kong’s world famous International Race day.
They’ll be there again at Shatin in December adding colour, excitement and with great passion and nationalistic pride seldom seen by other racing nations- and always, so polite and appreciative.
LEAKED SEVEN NETWORK DEAL WITH TVN PROVOKES ANGRY RESPONSE
The report by Andrew Webster in last Friday’s Sydney Morning Herald spilling the beans on negotiations between the Seven Network and TVN to broadcast races free to air has produced an angry response from the Seven Network, according to media reports.
Not surprisingly, the report of Seven’s angry response came from Fairfax Media’s opposition – News Limited’s Daily Telegraph.
Both Kenny Callander and our good mate Christian Niccolussi reported that Seven supremo Kerry Stokes and Executive Tim Worner were less than impressed with Callander even suggesting that Supreme Court action was being contemplated to unmask the source of the leak, whose identity he claimed was known to many.
Edward Snowden? Julian Assange? Edward Assange Undies?
If that is the case and Callander The Elder is correct, we can only hope that the Supreme Court action is taken and the “leaker” unmasked.
Like many in the industry, we too have been told of the existence of a “serial leaker”, who, apparently, leaks selectively- and has been doing so to further his own destructive agenda for a very long time leaving a trail of instability and mistrust and conflict with those he deals with.
With an honourable exit not in his DNA, let’s just is forced to parachute from the industry post haste.
NSW and Australian racing will be far better off without more serial leaking and not-so-hidden agendas.
GAI OPENS UP ON STEROID TESTING
Whenever Australia’s first lady of racing-Gai Waterhouse- offers a view on racing down under, she lands a bulls eye.
Unlike many of her colleagues, Gai’s responses are measured, carefully considered and constructive.
Not surprisingly, her views on the steroid rules and, specifically, the steroid testing of yearlings are on the money.
The new rules introduced this year, and fast tracked by the Australian Racing Board, aka the ARB, to replicate those introduced in the UK following the Al Zarooni scandal with several Godolphin racehorses testing positive to steroids, are unambiguous and carry severe penalties.
There are no escape clauses for trainers found guilty of administering steroids to their racehorses.
They can be banned from training for up to two years and the owner cops it in the neck and wallet as well, with any horse testing positive to steroids facing a lengthy ban from the racetrack.
But Gai, like many trainers, believes the steroid ban is lopsided.
Steroids can remain in a horse’s system for over 12 months, and both trainers and owners can be placed in a very vulnerable and dangerous position when buying a yearling, if there is no procedure to guarantee that they are steroid free.
The quick and easy fix is to make the steroid testing of yearlings mandatory, at the expense of the breeder and make this information public.
Whilst the likelihood of a steroid positive is remote these days, the rules of racing cannot and should not discriminate amongst its stakeholders in its admirable quest to uphold the highest standards of integrity in Australian racing.
Breeders should be treated the same way as trainers and jockeys: Break the rules and face the consequences.
But, then again, we know too well that in Australian racing, the tail wags the dog.
The Breeders have been and still are the “untouchables”.
Did we hear someone mention a level playing field?
PLAYING “SPOT THE AUSSIE” IN THE MELBOURNE CUP
The news that over 20 international horses are already in quarantine and more expected to go into the quarantine barns in the UK in the next fortnight for this year’s “big three” in the spring racing carnival – the Melbourne and Caulfield Cups and Cox Plate- has racing administrators in “bleak city” doing handstands.
There is a sting in the tail though and all the hard yards put into making the spring carnival and its feature races the focus of international attention could come back to bite the racing administrators, where it really hurts.
Considering the CV’s of many of the international contenders and, importantly, that most are also qualified to run in the Melbourne Cup, the jewel in bleak city’s spring racing crown, the chances of Aussie trained horses getting a run in the Cup are getting harder and harder by the week.
It is a real possibility that Aussie trained horses will make up just a very small handful of runners in this year’s Melbourne Cup.
And then, look out for xenophobic commentary that will be dusted off by trainers and owners and sections of the racing media and let loose with the all too familiar war cry to “cap” the number of international trained runners in the Cup.
The problem though for the xenophobes is that the horse has literally bolted. Just put it down to the price of success.
The Melbourne Cup is now firmly established as a major international race and arguably the richest staying handicap in the world, and as such is on the wish list of just about every major owner and trainer in Europe.
It was a race going nowhere, until the VRC and Vintage Crop combined to put the Melbourne Cup on the international stage back in the late 80’s. It has not looked back.
PURTON’S FREQUENT FLYER POINTS SET TO SOAR
Last season’s premier jockey in Hong Kong, Zac Purton, is set to rack up plenty of frequent flyer points when he commutes between Hong Kong and Sydney and Melbourne over the next two months to fulfil some important riding commitments in many of the major feature races during the spring racing carnival in both States.
Purton has bookings for Sacred Falls, whom he rode to success in the Doncaster at Randwick during the Championships last Autumn, and who is highly fancied for Group One races in Sydney over the next month and the Cox Plate in Melbourne in late October.
He has also been booked to ride highly regarded Japanese stayer Admire Rakti in both the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups as well as bookings in Melbourne for Caulfield Guineas day next month.
Zac is in for a very busy schedule flying straight back to Hong Kong after the races on Saturday night to fulfil his riding engagements the next day at Shatin.
NASH RAWILLER’S HONG KONG CHALLENGE
Having been fortunate enough to land a gig in Hong Kong for the next several months, Nash Rawiller, one of the best on Australia’s riding roster, faces a challenge to keep out of the stewards room when he takes up his riding contract in Hong Kong later than expected, thanks to a riding suspension he received in Japan last week.
Nash has a well documented history of falling foul of the stewards in Australia and will need to stay clear of Kim Kelly and his panel if he is to make a success of his potentially lucrative opportunity to be a permanent fixture in Hong Kong’s world class jockey roster.
The Gnasher is a hugely competitive individual, with a touch of white line fever when he jumps aboard a horse.
One of the strongest riders and a brilliant front running jockey, lets hope The Gnasher doesn’t do a Moreira and spend unwanted time on the sidelines.
The VRC worked hard to raise the international profile of Australia’s biggest race, but more than anything else it was the booming Aussie dollar which helped make it attractive to come all that way. That is set to change. I wonder how much international interest there will be in two years’ time.