Racing: River ready to roll in wake of Sea: A quirk of the calendar adds curiosity value, but Hong Kong's Cup is no trivial pursuit

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The Independent Online
THE PLETHORA of quiz nights racing provokes may soon feature a new vexing question. Which two horses (and it was not because of a dead-heat) won the Hong Kong Invitational Cup in 1993?

The answer will be Romanee Conti, who won the 1992 Cup postponed until April this year because of a foot and mouth epidemic in the colony, and whoever takes the 1993 Cup at Sha Tin in 10 days' time.

This year's race is worthy of attention because of the result of its predecessor. Among the vanquished eight months ago were Urban Sea and Fraar, who went on to win notable prizes in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe and Caulfield Cup respectively.

The European challenge this time embraces two French runners, Verveine and Marildo, and Clive Brittain's Alflora, the mount of Mick Kinane, who are all close up in the betting behind the horse who is Desert Orchid, Arkle and Nijinsky rolled into one for Hong Kong racing fans, River Verdon.

Also competing will be Adam Smith, a winner in Britain for Luca Cumani and now performing with distinction in America. He is trained at Belmont by Cumani's former assistant Christophe Clement.

As well as the HKdollars 5m ( pounds 438,000) Cup, Britain will be represented in the accompanying Bowl by Swing Low (trained Richard Hannon, jockey John Reid) and Karinga Bay (Gary Moore, Brian Rouse), a 14-1 chance who seems to have been around as long as an old chaser.

One chaser who may never be seen on the racecourse again is David Nicholson's King Of The Lot, who misses the Tingle Creek Trophy at Sandown on Saturday and keeps an appointment instead with a surgeon today. 'He has aggravated an injury to his hind cannon bone, which will be pinned tomorrow,' the trainer said yesterday. 'He had the same problem last year, which restricted him to three runs but we did nothing about it. This time it will have to be fixed and if it comes right he should be able to race again.'

Despite King Of The Lot's absence, Sandown still offers the weekend's compelling action, with perhaps the best novice chase of the season so far and two competitive handicaps.

Chepstow is meek in comparison as its feature, the Rehearsal Chase, looks a doddle for Jodami now that Carvill's Hill is a non-runner.

Jodami was one of 23 horses (Travado, Cab On Target, The Fellow and Barton Bank were others) nominated for the King George VI Chase at Kempton on 27 December yesterday, while Carvill's Hill (a 14-1 chance with Coral) heads the 42 entries for the Welsh National at Chepstow the following day, only seven of whom are in the handicap proper.