Racing Victoria confident of return of Japanese gallopers

Senior racing officials are confident that improved quarantine arrangements will bring a return of Japanese horses not only to participate in this year’s spring carnival in Melbourne, but also in the rich Championships series in Sydney next year.

Talks this week with Japanese officials and Australian scout Leigh Jordon in Tokyo were so successful, both parties say, that it looks likely Japanese horses could again become regular visitors here.

Jordon, who was the worldwide scout for big races for the Victorian spring carnival, says for the first time since 2006, Japan could have some of its best stayers visiting.

In 2006, Delta Blues and Pop Rock quinellaed the Melbourne Cup but because of difficult quarantine protocols, Japan has had only one representative since.

Jordon said the sticking point had been the quarantine station at Tokyo racecourse, which was not the choice of leading trainers and owners in Japan.

‘‘We’ve come a long way since 2006," he said. "We’ve seen the 100-metre separation rule between horses travelling out of the country and those local horses now reduced to 50m.

‘‘But Tokyo racecourse is just not the ideal position to be a quarantine centre, and Miho training centre is much preferred by the main players in Japan. Miho housed Pop Rock and Delta Blues, and being a training centre it doesn’t have that huge movement of horses that Tokyo racecourse has,’’ Jordon said.

Jordon was accompanied to Tokyo by representatives from International Racehorse Transport, who also assisted in talks at moving the quarantine facility to Miho.

Jordon said a submission to the Australian government would be finalised in the next few weeks but was hopeful Japan would be a part of the spring this year.

‘‘They were naturally excited that Hana’s Goal was successful in Sydney and it rekindled their interest in Australian racing," he said. ‘‘Hana’s Gold was quarantined at Nakayama, which is a little similar to Miho in that they’re perfectly positioned to handle quarantine. And with the concession granted of reducing horse separation from 100m to 50m, it presented us with a window of opportunity to restart talks.

‘‘And what was exciting was the keenness of owners and trainers to know more about our carnivals and not only just the Melbourne Cup, the Caulfield Cup and the Cox Plate, but there was interest right across the board.’’

Jordon said that the quarantine protocols between Japan and Australia were set back following the outbreak of equine influenza six years ago.

However, Fenomeno and Win Variation, which quinellaed last Sunday’s Tenno Sho, Japan's equivalent to the Melbourne Cup at Kyoto, is always an excellent insight to that country’s rising stayers.

‘‘And the connections of both the winner and runner-up in the Tenno Sho indicated pre- and post-race that they were more than keen to come to Australia for the Caulfield and Melbourne cups," Jordon said. "We want our races, especially the Melbourne Cup, Caulfield Cup and Cox Plate, to be the best in the world and if we can attract Japanese racehorses, we’re going the right way about achieving that goal.’’

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