THE lure of massive prizemoney in Japan could be too tempting for the owners of champion Hong Kong sprinter, Sacred Kingdom, to resist, according to the South China Morning Post.

Leading racing writer Alan Aitken reports: ‘Like any star galloper two years on, Sacred Kingdom now has the looks of a consummate professional rather than the bold, marauding new kid in town of late 2007, when he first drew world attention.

‘He does not win by big margins now, even when the race plays out perfectly for him, as it did in the recent Chairman's Sprint, but he just wins the race.

‘If there is any reading between the lines to be done with trainer Ricky Yiu Poon-fai, then Sacred Kingdom's next start will be in Japan followed by a return to Singapore.

‘We can only assume that time is being taken on the decision to give face to the HK$2 million Hong Kong Speed Series bonus rather than brush it aside as a consideration.

‘But the Takamatsunomiya Kinen in Nagoya offers the right race at the right time for a Sacred Kingdom who is in the zone. And the money is hard to ignore.

‘Stay here for HK$4.6 million all inclusive if he wins the Queen's Silver Jubilee Stakes - or go to Japan, all expenses paid, for HK$8.1 million if he wins there. Second place in the Queen's Silver Jubilee is worth HK$990,000. Second in Japan is HK$3.2 million and even third is worth HK$2 million.

‘Even owners of world champions do not usually get those opportunities to take the extra step and win overseas. Nobody ever said it was a formality, but Sacred Kingdom has won once away from home and the opposition in Japan is not a mystery.

‘Laurel Guerreiro was the star sprinter there in 2009, achieving a rare feat in winning both of Japan's 1,200m Group Ones, and he has not been able to get close in two away games in Hong Kong, the latest behind Sacred Kingdom in December.

‘If there's a place to be keen to take on the strength of Japanese racing in its backyard, sprinting is the arena.’


A widely-distributed and controversial racing column, called the Racing Bitch, has been extremely critical of a reported decision by the owners to replace Brett Prebble with Shane Dye on Hong Kong Derby fancy, Fair Trade.

In its latest edition, ‘The Bitch’ reported: ‘On that Sunday Lunar New Year meeting, Brett Prebble rode his 400th winner in Hong Kong and it was a gem of a ride on Fair Trade.

‘And, yes, it’s true: R S Dye is to be the horse’s new rider for at least two runs. Oh dead, ‘The Punters Pal’ will be back in Honkers which will mean some business for Al’s Diner and no business for us when he’s aboard anything. He is simply very bad Fung Shui for us.

‘As for Prebble, we’ve been tough on the jock and have not exactly been fans of his, especially after a few shorties managed to get off to slow starts. But that ride on Fair Trade and the determination he has shown this season to win his first Hong Kong Jockeys’ Championship cannot be ignored nor overlooked.

‘Sure, if Dougie Whyte had managed to turn those six seconds into winners, this season’s Championship race would not be the foregone conclusion it now is.

‘But, there or no Ifs nor Buts in this game and Prebble has seized all and made the most of nearly every opportunity that has come his way and will win his first Hong Kong Jockeys Championship. Riding four wins in a row.

‘After taking some time to find his feet – and rides – Brett Prebble is today the most in-demand jockey in Hong Kong, the one-time domain of Dougie Whyte who, once, also had the pick of the rides.

‘This season, this ‘first call’ has gone to Prebble who has ridden for every trainer worth anything. Those he hasn’t ridden for, well, that speaks volumes of what we also think of their training abilities.’

‘The Racing Bitch’ has also reported on a rumor that trainer David Hayes wants Prebble to be his stable jockey and claims the odds are shortening that the Prebble family will want to move back home at some time very soon.

As for the apparent Dye engagement for former Australian galloper Fair Trade, it emanates from a long-term agreement with the horse’s owners. It is interesting however that the horse did not line up as expected in the G1 Hong Kong Gold Cup last Sunday, a vital lead up to its main goal, the $HK16 million Group I Hong Kong Derby (2000m) on March 14.

There was a report on a prominent Australian racing web-site that Hong Kong stewards would not permit Dye to take the ride on Fair Trade. But that report disappeared within 24 hours of being posted – one can only wonder why!



HIGHLY-respected racing writer, Mike Dillon, from the New Zealand Herald is obviously a fan of Australian steward Cameron George.

When George recently returned to the role of New Zealand Chief Steward after 14 months in Australia, Dillon wrote:

‘If New Zealand adopts a tri-code integrity panel, George would be a natural to head it. His 14 months spent in harness racing in Victoria will prove invaluable.

‘Cameron George looked over a nearly deserted Rotorua racecourse two hours before the first race (his first day back) and it was difficult to remember that it was 14 months since he left.

‘It's not immediately obvious that anything has changed since the best racing steward this country has known slipped out of the job of New Zealand's chief steward that he's just slipped back into. But it has.

‘It would be a very good bet that if New Zealand adopts the combining of all three racing codes in matters of integrity, George will land the job of heading the umbrella body.

‘All bets are off on whether this country will adopt a total One Racing administration on all levels, but it makes absolute sense to combine the integrity bodies.

‘George won't be drawn into speculating on the possibility of that new position. “If it happened it would be a privilege to be offered a position like that, but that's for others to decide.”

‘That's where the 14 months in Australia will prove to be crucial experience.

‘George impressed everyone with his efficiency and determination as a steward when the first real case he had thrown at him in New Zealand was the almost impossible Lisa Cropp ‘silver object’ case in the Derby at Ellerslie.

‘Dividends were suspended in the Derby when Cropp alleged she saw a ‘silver object’, by implication an illegal jigger, pass from the hands of winning rider Vinny Colgan to the hand of third-placed jockey Noel Harris as the field returned.

‘George's decisive inquiry - on his birthday, no less - was as stylish as it was speedy under the circumstances.

‘After lengthy questioning of all parties concerned and studying videotape evidence of the alleged incident, George announced Redoute's Dancer and runner-up Mettre En Jeu placings would stand.

‘The videotape of the ‘high five’ between Colgan and Harris (who rode third placegetter Uberalles) confirmed Colgan had an open hand when making contact with Harris' hand and clearly showed there was nothing in his palm.’


Five jockeys have been punished for getting their bearings mixed up in the middle of a race at Newcastle in the United Kingdom.

BBC SPORT reports that the group took an incorrect turn and ended up on the wrong side of the central railings in a Maiden Hurdle.

Two of them realized their error and rode back on to the correct course - but it was too late and each was suspended for 12 days.

“They had their heads down and didn't realize where they were going,” said course stipendiary steward Adie Smith. “When they realized they'd gone the wrong side of the hurdle track they tried to pull back, but the momentum had taken them past the point of no return.”

The mishap occurred with a full circuit still to go in the two-mile, six-furlong Gosforth Decorating And Building Services Mares' Maiden Hurdle.

Jason Maguire and his mount Seedless suddenly turned left on to chase course, and were followed by four other horses - including the 6-4 favourite Catleen, ridden by Peter Buchanan.

The unlucky group, which also comprised Glen Innis Lady (James O'Farrell), Moscow Mischief (Campbell Gillies) and Ruby Queen (Paddy Aspell), were then pulled up by race officials.

Gillies said: “I knew the rail was there, but with a lot of runners it couldn't be seen by those behind until too late. It was marked on the board in the weighing room. You would have thought someone would have spoken to the jockeys beforehand to make sure we were aware of it.”

However, clerk of the course James Armstrong insisted: “They managed to ride round it perfectly fine in the first race. It was just one of those moments where the jockeys have perhaps lost their concentration.”


THE UK GUARDIAN reports that the Irish Turf Club will shortly get a second chance, having blown the first, to show that it is serious about fighting corruption in racing.

It claims the omens, however, are poor; indeed, the club can fairly be described as a laughing stock, thanks to its handling of the John O'Gorman case.

O'Gorman, who works as a stable lad at the County Limerick yard of Charles Byrnes, was recently found to have placed bets through Betfair on nine runners from the stable during 2008. Happily, O’Gorman made a very large net loss because the horse against which he risked the largest sum managed to win.

But The Guardian claims that hardly justifies the astonishingly lenient sentence he was given, a four-month ban from attending racecourses in Ireland.

Byrnes has expressed his regret that O'Gorman ‘got involved in such a thing’. But he does not, apparently, view such corruption as a sack-able offence and has now applied to the ITC to be allowed to continue employing O'Gorman.

The answer can only be a scornful ‘no,’ says The Guardian. Otherwise, the ITC will have exposed the sport to the risk of endless similar cases. ‘What is to deter any stable worker from using inside information to make a quick profit, knowing that, even if caught, they will face nothing worse than a short ban from going to the track? They may not go racing much in any case.’

Regrettably, the case involves Solwhit, Byrnes's splendidly game favourite for the Champion Hurdle. It was Solwhit who managed to win when O'Gorman wanted him to lose, having staked 8,600 Euros on the outcome, far more than he risked in the other races.


IRISH researchers have found that horses with a specific mutation in the gene called myostatin (MSTN) have improved athletic performance.

“A variety of mammalian species with specific MSTN variants have characteristics of increased muscle mass,” explained leading researcher Emmeline Hill, PhD, from the Animal Genomics Laboratory at University College Dublin.

She said whippet racing dogs provide an example: Dogs that are heterozygous (have one copy) for a specific variant of the MSTN gene have significantly greater racing ability than dogs that are either homozygous (have two copies) for the mutation or dogs with no copies of the mutation.

Since this sequence in Thoroughbred racehorses had not yet been examined, Hill and colleagues analyzed DNA for variations in 148 Thoroughbred horses.

The researchers found that a single difference in the genetic code that changed a ‘cytosine’ (C-allele) to a ‘thymine’ (T-allele) base in the MSTN gene (which is over 6,000 base pairs in length) is strongly associated with best race distance in elite racehorses.

After validating the results in an addition 87 horses, the researchers suggested, ‘horses with the C-allele in both copies of the MSTN gene are suited to fast, short, races; horses with one copy of the C-allele and one copy of the T-allele compete favorably as middle-distance runners, and horses with two copies of the T-allele have greater stamina.’

Hill and Irish Thoroughbred trainer Jim Bolger co-founded the company Equinome to provide a means for breeders, stallion managers, and bloodstock agents alike to test horses' MSTN gene sequences.

Test results will tell racehorse owners and trainers if a horse is ideally suited to racing over short, middle, or middle-to-long distances, the manufacturers say. Using this information, they could potentially optimize their purchasing and training decisions and enter their horses in the most suitable races. The test is also anticipated to help make more precise breeding decisions to maximize the genetic potential and value of their horses.

“While this information might be guessed by evaluating pedigrees and physical observations of individuals, using these traditional methods one cannot be certain of the actual genetic make-up of an individual,” Hill said.

“It is particularly important to realize that full-siblings with exactly the same pedigree page may be very different genetically. This test will provide that information, which cannot be determined with accuracy by any other means. Therefore the use of the test will provide an advantage in basing decision making in selection, racing, and breeding on accurate, scientifically ascertained information.”