Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

The saga seems to have been going on as long as the UK soapie Coronation Street: attempts to send South African thoroughbreds directly to other countries have always been met with red tape. Now, Hong Kong has emerged as an ally with its Jockey Club CEO Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges saying that the club is "supporting efforts to open up the South African market for direct export to major jurisdictions" in an effort "to provide owners with more choice".

Engelbrecht-Bresges said in his annual report, "To sustain the success of the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s integrated model, and its commitment to the betterment of society, the club must continue in investing in its world-class racing product."

"This means we need to keep increasing prize money, both to incentivise horse owners and to maintain the attractiveness of our international races for overseas horses," he said.

To compete in Europe, top South African horses have to make the long quarantine haul through Mauritius. It can have a detrimental effect in the long-term. Smart Call, winner of the Sun Met in January, took this route and has battled to shape in England and Ireland. The daughter of Ideal World ran unplaced in Sunday’s grade2 Moyglare Stakes at the Curragh.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong racing continues to thrive. Total turnover for the 2016-17 season hit a new record of $27.93bn, a 10.7% increase for the season.

Turffontein host their third meeting of the week on Saturday and 2016’s Grand Heritage winner, Irish Pride, makes his first appearance of the season.

The five-year-old takes on 12 rivals in the seventh race, but will not have his regular pilot, Gavin Lerena, in the saddle.

Mark Khan has been booked for the six-time winner.

With Irish Pride unplaced in his last two outings, it may be safer to row in with Ormond Ferraris’s consistent gelding, Shukamisa, who has not finished out of the money in his seven starts in 2017.

The price of a newcomer from the Azzie stable, Argentina-bred colt Hat Puntano, should be closely monitored.

Toro Rosso, born in Brazil, represents the Mike de Kock stable and, drawn in pole position, can improve in just his third outing in 2017.

Champion trainer Sean Tarry sends out the five-time winner Count Tassilo, who is on the short list of possible winners.

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