2000 Guineas Not An Option
Gr.1 Al Basti Equiworld Dubai New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m) contender Not An Option has been ruled out of the three-year-old feature after bone chips were found in one of his fetlocks on Thursday morning.
The Not A Single Doubt colt had suffered a heart fibrillation when finishing last in the Gr.2 James and Annie Sarten Memorial Stakes (1400m) at Te Rapa on Saturday, but trainer Tony Pike had been pleased with his recovery after the race before Thursday's finding.
"Unfortunately this (Thursday) morning, apart from his heart fibrillation on Saturday, we found a small chip in one of his fetlocks. It is only very minor but it is going to have to come out.
"Unfortunately that rules him out of the Guineas and he will come back for a late Autumn campaign in either Sydney or Brisbane.
"It was a bit of a head scratcher on Saturday. Those heart fibrillations do happen, but I was quite confident the way he pulled up on the Sunday but with this (bone chip) rearing its head we are going to have to look after him and take that out and start again."
Columbus County impresses in Hong Kong
Joao Moreira capped a four-timer at Happy Valley on Wednesday with a smart victory aboard former Kiwi Columbus County in the Class 2 Time Warp Handicap (1800m) for trainer Caspar Fownes.
"We know how hard it is to win one race in Hong Kong, when you go home with four in the bag it's very pleasing and I'm thankful for all of the support I've been getting," Moreira said.
Columbus County, who raced as Sword in Stone in New Zealand, was the Brazilian's wrap-up victory in the evening's finale, the five-year-old scoring with an impressive, rail-hugging success against a quality field of Class 2 gallopers.
"I just couldn't be any happier than what I am to be given the chance to ride such a nice horse, he's done it like a good horse: he jumps well with them, he settles nicely four or five back on the fence, and when horses start to pick up he picks himself up," Moreira said.
The Redwood gelding was one of last season's main protagonists for the BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) but could only manage ninth in the blue riband to Golden Sixty but he headed into his first run of the campaign this evening having rounded off last season with a success in the grade.
"Once I got him within striking position turning for home, and I put him under pressure close to the fence, he showed me that he has a lot of quality, and it's not just going to be this, there are more wins to come for him," Moreira said.
The win will lift the gelding to a triple figure rating with step one complete on his LONGINES Hong Kong International Races trail.
Columbus County's success capped a double for Fownes, who earlier had Sky Darci land the second section of the Class 3 Speed Vision Handicap (1200m), also under Moreira.
The smart four-year-old was, like his stablemate, first-up for the term and was forced to do it the hard way from gate 12, travelling three-wide throughout to score by a length and a quarter.
The son of Darci Brahma arrived in Hong Kong as a 52-rater and prior to Wednesday's win he was rated 71 in the middle of Class 3 but the eye-catching win prompted Four-Year-Old Classic Series talk.
"The Four-Year-Old Classic Series is definitely possible," Fownes said. "He's a Class 2 horse, he'll obviously get around seven points for the win so he can stay in Class 3 and then carry a bit of weight next time and then if we can win one more he's there.
"He's always given me the feeling that he'll get further, so we'll give him one more 1200 metre race here and then we'll start to stretch his distance."
Karaka Million order of entry released
New Zealand Bloodstock have revealed the current order of entry for the Karaka Million races to be held at Ellerslie on January 23.
Te Akau Racing hold a strong hand in the 2021 DoubleTree by Hilton Karaka Million 2YO (1200m), a race they have won four times in a row with Melody Belle, Avantage, Probabeel and Cool Aza Beel.
Horses purchased by David Ellis currently occupy three of the top four positions through the early weeks of two-year-old racing this season.
The top position belongs to Follow Your Dreams, trained by Kenny Rae and Krystal Williams-Tuhoro at Ruakaka. Bought for $24,000 from Valachi Downs' Book 2 draft, the impressive colt has had two starts for two victories at Riccarton this month.
Te Akau Racing's top ranked runners are currently Palamos who sits in second place, while two-time placegetter Avonallo and debut Avondale winner Sophisticardo are third and fourth respectively.
Meanwhile, 2020 Karaka Million 2YO winner Cool Aza Beel is currently the table-topper in the order of entry for the $1m Karaka Million 3YO Classic (1600m). He could attempt to follow in the footsteps of his stablemate Probabeel, who was the first horse in history to win both the Karaka Million 2YO and the Karaka Million 3YO Classic.
Melbourne Group Three winner Crosshaven and the undefeated Gr.2 Hawke's Bay Guineas (1400m) winner Aegon are also prominently positioned.