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Hong Kong champion to run at Flemington
Mike Hedge
08:15 AEST Mon Dec 31 2012

One of the more warmly-debated issues in international racing goes public at Flemington on New Year's Day.

Good Ba Ba, the former champion racehorse of Hong Kong, resident of seven different racing stables and a horse susceptible to the vagaries of feng shui, is topweight in the Group Three Standish Handicap (1200m).

And barring unforeseen protests and diplomatic intervention, he will run.

Normally the appearance of a horse with the record of Good Ba Ba would be heartily welcomed.

But Good Ba Ba is 11 years old, he hasn't raced since April last year and, many would say, he's done more than enough.

Good Ba Ba, or Ho Ba Ba (good father) as Hong Kong's Chinese punters and racecallers know him, has indeed been a good horse for his owner John Yuen Se-kit.

From his 46 starts he has won 16 times and been placed in nine other races. He's also won Yuen around $A9.3 million, he claimed the Group One Hong Kong Mile three years in succession and was Hong Kong's Horse of the Year for 2007-08

Yuen brought Good Ba Ba out of retirement this year, sending him to Rick Hore-Lacy at Caulfield having firstly contemplated racing him in Macau only to abandon the plan in the face of a storm of protest from local racegoers.

There can be no questioning Hore-Lacy's motives in training a horse he believes is sound and happy, as Good Ba Ba has shown in winning a barrier trial at Cranbourne earlier this month and then running second in another at Pakenham.

"He's as sound as a bell and he's been happy to do everything we've asked of him," Hore-Lacy said.

"I can tell you I wouldn't send him out there if I had any concern."

But other questions that have nothing to do with Hore-Lacy can be posed about the merits of asking a horse who has done so much to do it again.

During his seven seasons of racing in Hong Kong, Good Ba Ba and his fickle owner attracted notoriety as well as buckets of money.

In succession he was trained by Andreas Schutz, Tony Millard, Alex Wong Yu-on, Schutz again, Derek Cruz, Schutz yet again and Michael Chang Chun-wai. His aborted stint in Macau was with Gary Moore.

Most of the changes of trainer have been accompanied by unusual acrimony.

During one of the horse's stays with Schutz his owner became unhappy with the feng shui around the stable.

Schutz attended to the problem, but his efforts apparently weren't sufficient and the horse was moved to a more agreeable location.

Good Ba Ba will more than likely race well at Flemington, as horses of his calibre always try to do.

But in Hong Kong where he was revered, there is horror at the prospect of him racing again.

In one of the more restrained reactions to Good Ba Ba's comeback, the chief executive of the Hong Kong Jockey Club, Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, expressed disappointment at his impending return.

"My personal view is that it is sad to see that a champion like Good Ba Ba is not given a well-deserved retirement," he told the South China Morning Post.

On the other side of the argument, Hore-Lacy says the horse is fit, happy and well.

"Just because he's 11 doesn't mean he's not up to it," he said.

"Look at me, I'm going all right and I'm 73."


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