Mateo at the Hong Kong Cup
Here is the daily log of Mateo's trip to Hong Kong from Hollywood Park race track told by Mateo's trainer, Ian Jory.
The Beginning Nov. 22, 1996
Recently, Mateo was invited as one of the reserves to run in the Hong Kong Cup. This is a Group 2 race run at a mile and an eighth on the turf at Sha Tin, Hong Kong. As it promises to be a unique experience, we thought we might submit a daily log of his activities for anyone who is interested in the pitfalls of shipping to the other side of the world to race.
On Friday 22nd, we started our journey at the Fedex hanger in Los Angeles. At 4.30 am, the equipment and horse were loaded into a jet stall and very quickly and efficiently, hoisted into the last pallet space on a Fedex jet bound directly for Newark. From there, he was vanned to Belmont Park and was in his stall in Dan Peitz's barn about six hours after leaving Hollywood Park.
Saturday morning was his work morning as he missed out in Los Angeles on the Thursday due to rain. Under Dan's supervision and ridden by my assistant, Frank Dalton, he worked an easy five furlongs in 102 3/5. After cooling out and breakfast, he then had a leisurely morning before being transferred to the USDA quarantine station at JFK. There he waited about six hours in a large stall before being loaded into a jet stall again, this time having to share it with Da Hoss, and being rolled out to a waiting Cathay Pacific 747. Once again they were loaded with the minimum of delay, and almost immediately that they were bolted down, the door closed and the plane started rolling down the runway.
The journey took twenty hours, including a refuelling stop in Anchorage, and they reached Hong Kong safely Sunday evening. There, they were unloaded and vanned to the special international barn at Sha Tin Racecourse.
Wednesday Nov. 27, 1996
Mateo seems to be in good form today, although his temperature is slightly elevated at 101.0. This is quite common after shipping and we will just keep an eye on it.
During the ship from California, Mateo lost 10kgs. We are very much into weighing our horses, both weekly and before and after each race, and this is something that is extremely useful in a situation such as this. The normal weight loss for Mateo in a race is about 10kgs, and he will usually put this back on within a week.
Weighing is very common in England, where I originated from, as the horses ship long distances to each race meeting. I have always found that a mature horse's weight will only differ by about 2kgs when he runs to his best form.
Thursday Nov. 28, 1996
Mateo's weight is now back up to his regular racing weight of 528 kgs. This is a huge relief, especially as he has re-hydrated himself so quickly. His temperature is now also normal so it is safe to assume that the shipping has had little effect on him.
Today, he did his regular training schedule of jogging a mile, then standing for a couple of minutes before galloping a mile and a quarter. Being in Hong Kong, he now has to run right handed, (as opposed to left handed in the US), and he does not seem to have a problem in going the other way.
Friday Nov. 29, 1996
Everything is in good order with a regular temperature, normal exercise and a good appetite.
Cash Assmussen called today to confirm that he will ride, as our regular rider, Gary Stevens, is already committed to Da Hoss.
I fly out today with the owners, so the next report will be on site at Sha Tin.
Monday Dec 2, 1996
Today we were allowed on the turf for one of our two visits. To protect the turf from excessive wear, cones were put out about ten feet from the outside rail and we were instructed to stay on the outside of them. One of the local trainers former top French trainer Patrick Biancone, wa s fined $10,000 yesterday for deliberately working on the inside rail, and s o we were careful to follow instructions.
Mateo backed up to the end of the chute, (the race will be a one turn mile and an eighth), and then gallopped down to the 1000 meter marker to work five furlongs. He negotiated the right handed turns and picked it up nicely in the stretch. Due to the width of the track, he probably worked about five and three quarter furlongs, but he did it very nicely in hand. After the work, we scoped him, as he had not worked on lasix, and everything was in good order.
The weather out here has been pleasantly cool in the mornings, and we have had Mateo in a light sheet during the day. The humidity that was here for the first few days has now gone and I hope it stays like this.
Tuesday Dec. 3, 1996
The weather is still very cool and overcast, although it is starting to get a little humid again in the afternoons. Mateo seems very well in himself and is a tiger out on the track. He does seem a little quiet in his stall though and I think he is a little confused as to what is going on. His temperature is good and he is eating all that we are giving him. The worrying thing, which thank goodness is the only hiccup so far, is that his weight is dropping slightly and he is down a couple of kilos from his racing weight. Tomorrow we will pull a blood analysis on him to see if there is any thing obviously wrong with him, although there is not much that we can do under the local rules within a week of the race.
This is the first time that he has travelled anywhere and he is a young horse, although he does not seem too worried about anything in particular.
There are 1100 horses here at Sha Tin and they race between here and Happy Valley, with two race meetings a week. The average crowd at these meetings is 70,000 people per day, and the take is over $100,000 US. To own a horse here, you have to be a member of the Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club, which is no easy task, and there is a long waiting list of applicants. The trainers, of whom there are abut 20, get provided with a maximum of 60 stalls at Sha Tin and also get a free appartment. All their bills are met by the RHKJC and they are paid strictly their commission of winnings by the RHKJC directly.
As the purses are huge, this is a very nice income for them, and they do not have to worry about bad payers, or huge overheads, as we do in the US.
Thursday Dec. 5, 1996
Today is entry day although the draw will not be held until tomorrow.
Mateo could not be doing better, and his coat and weight are now right on schedule. Tomorrow we blow out on the turf with Asmussen.
There is no medication allowed over here and the four vets here work strictly for the RHKJC, so there is no cheating, unless it goes on behind their backs. Although the employees work for a particular trainer,, they recieve their wages from the RHKJC and so presumably that is where their main allegience lies. The R-HKJC is a huge organization and is non profit so they provide considerable funding for local schools, hospitals etc. One person told me that if the RHKJC were not successful, the Hong Kong income tax would not be at it's present rate of 10%, and instead would be a lot higher.
Sunday Dec. 7, 1996
Yesterday evening, we were given the devastating news that Mateo had come up up with a positive urine test for Boldenone, which is another name for Equipoise, an anabolic steroid. Due to the strict no drug rules in Hong Kong, this meant an automatic withdrawal from the race. Incidently, Da Hoss, our travel partner, also came up with the same test, and was also withdrawn.
Although I rarely use steroids, they are useful when a horse loses his appetite or well being, as a sort of pick me up, and are also legal in the US up to seven days before raceday. In Mateo's case, he had gone off form coming back from Del Mar, and we had given him two shots of Equipoise, one on September 14th and the latter on October 7th. At that stage, we had not received any word about an invitation to Hong Kong and had not seriously considered it in Mateo's race plans. When we were officially invited on November 20th, I called a trainer in Hong Kong and asked him about the steroid showing, and he informed me that a time period of 40 - 50 days was considered quite enough for this drug to clear the system. Our calculations made the period 62 days so we assumed that we were clear of any traces from the drug. Unfortunately, Mateo obviously maintained the drug in his system a lot longer than is normal. On arrival, we informed the RHKJC of the dates that we administered the drug and their experts did not think that we would have a problem. On their advice, we entered on Thursday and waited for the Saturday test.
The RHKJC have been very nice and understanding about the whole thing, and obviously they are as disappointed as we are that both horses had to be withdrawn, but rules are rules and we remain extremely embarrassed about the whole episode. This is the first time that I have had a horse come up with a positive test, and to have one whilst representing the US in a world event is very painful, especially as it came about due to some innaccurate information in the retention of substances in the horses' anatomy. It is also very hard for the syndicate who own Mateo, who have supported his plan to race in Hong Kong as opposed to the US and who are obviously very disappointed by the whole episode.
Quote from a covering article by Bruce Stinson in Monday's edition of The
Hong Kong Standard;