Tactical speed brings Knight into play
Top trainers John Size and John Moore face off with half the field in today's Chan Trophy (1,600m) at Sha Tin and lightly weighted Supreme Knight has the draw and tactical speed to claim the day for Moore.
Moore holds the strength in the race, with Military Attack (Douglas Whyte) and Supreme Knight (Tim Clark), but his most serious dangers look to be the Size-trained trio of Aomen (Willie Pike), Hot Shot and Delta Hedge. And Tony Cruz adds some spice with California Dude (Matthew Chadwick).
Topweight Military Attack has come through a Derby campaign with credit, finishing a solid sixth in the classic before his second to Helene Spirit at Happy Valley last start.
But, with what he has shown, he has earned the stopper of 133 pounds coming back into Class Two and a 16-pound weight difference with Supreme Knight might even swing things the way of the lesser-rated stablemate.
Supreme Knight has never had any pretensions to Derbies or the top grades, but he has proved to be a solid performer, making his way up through the grades. Four wins and five placings from 17 starts is a sound form line.
The gelding missed the first half of this season after having suspensory ligament problems in September, but that should stand him in good stead as a horse with some running left in him at this end of the term.
After a couple of moderate runs as he gained fitness, Supreme Knight caught the eye behind Keen Wongchoy two starts ago, then looked to make hard work of it when he scraped home as favourite last time out over 1,400m in Class Three.
A son of Starcraft, he is unlike most of the breed, which tend to be very big horses, but winning jockey Brett Prebble made the point last start that Supreme Knight is a more compact model and would welcome a rise in grade and the drop to a light weight.
He gets that today and he has the tactical speed to lay up handy in a 1,600m race where the strength of the pace is a query.
Key to that query are tactics on outsiders like Just Fantastic, a regular front-runner on the dirt who has blinkers going on, and lightly weighted Ottimo, who has been racing forward at Happy Valley.
This pair, and possibly Hot Shot, look the prominent runners, but the question marks lie with just how fast they will go. To some, Military Attack was a disappointment at Happy Valley, despite finishing second to Helene Spirit.
The winner raced against the inside rail down the straight, which looked no advantage, and he raced up on a strong pace, yet was able to hold off the late finish of Military Attack, who was in the preferred ground and had the pace run to suit. Nevertheless, the four-year-old looks right in the fight again this afternoon.
Like Supreme Knight, Aomen has a good draw and a light weight with the class rise and his was a much better run than it looked on paper when sixth to Fun Rider last time at the Valley - Keith Yeung Ming-lun was outridden by Tye Angland on the winner and Aomen was bottled up when the vital points of the race were being won. He can improve from the inside with a more positive ride.
California Dude also looks ready to make improvement. He raced handy but wide when he failed in his first run, but has been ridden quietly since, most lately in one of the slowest Valley miles ever run in Class Two. He finished off well there.
The winning strike rate for Tim Clark and John Moore, who have combined 49 times this season