Racing: Invitation to Opera declined

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OPERA HOUSE was pulled out of the Japan Cup yesterday when his purchasers, the country's Racing Association, declined the invitation to their own race.

The colt, a disappointing sixth in the Breeders' Cup Turf last weekend, was one of four foreign candidates beaten at Santa Anita whose owners have not taken up the option to run in Japan's richest race in Tokyo on 28 November. The other overseas absentees will be the Turf runner-up, Bien Bien, the Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby) winner, Hernando, who was struck into and lost a shoe during the same race, and Flawlessly, who was unplaced in the Mile.

Opera House, who won Eclipse Stakes and King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes for Michael Stoute this summer, as well as finishing third in last month's Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, will now be retired to stud in Japan.

White Muzzle, Opera House's close rival in the King George and Arc, will now be the sole British-trained representative in the last major middle-distance race of the international calendar, after which he will also join the growing list of top European horses taking up stallion duties in Japan.

Urban Sea, the Arc winner, and the American-trained Luazar, third behind Kotashaan in the Turf, are also acceptors for the race. The Japan Racing Association has now opened discussions with the connections of France's Apple Tree, ninth at Santa Anita, the Italian-based Misil and US-trained Fraise, with the aim of filling remaining places open to overseas competitors. Four invitations each are allocated for runners from Europe and North America.

Six other places in the mile- and-a-half contest will go to Japanese runners to be named later in the month, while two reserved for Australasia complete the 16-horse line-up.

A man who knows all about sending horses long distances, Melbourne Cup-winning trainer Dermot Weld, yesterday gave the go-ahead for General Idea to join the field for Saturday's Mackeson Gold Cup at Cheltenham. 'He schooled this morning and we were very satisfied with him,' Weld said. 'Richard Dunwoody will take the ride.' Betting moves in the race centred on Bradbury Star, 9-2 from 6-1 with Hills.

Kevin Darley was left one winner short of Edward Hide's record total for a northern- based jockey when River North by a Disciplinary Inquiry yesterday was disqualified for failing a dope test after his success at Brighton on 8 April.

Adrian Maguire could miss his booked rides at Newbury today after injuring a hip at Fontwell yesterday.