Hill stable poised to spring back to life
THIS is the time of year to latch on to the David Hill stable.
As sure as night follows day, or each-way bets run fourth, the Hill team hits form with a vengeance in the final third of the season.
That pattern is likely to be even stronger this time around as River Verdon's trip to Australia for the W. S. Cox Plate and the Melbourne Cup diverted attention somewhat from the rest of the string.
Now the winners are beginning to flow. Stable jockey John Marshall has sensed blood and is riding with plenty of confidence and no little verve and vigour and the string is starting to blossom almost daily in front of trackwatchers eyes at Sha Tin.
The Hill youngsters are looking a particularly strong bunch and it is one of the young guns who looks like flying the flag at Happy Valley in tomorrow night's final event.
Top-Worth is the horse in question and he's been a favourite ever since he first stepped on to the track to defeat Camelot in most impressive fashion at his only start as a griffin last season.
He needed his reappearance run but improved significantly on that to defy a slipped saddle and score at Sha Tin at his only other start.
Since then his trackwork has progressed further and there was much to like about the way he picked up strongly to the line to win a barrier trial down the straight 1,000-metre chute a week ago.
Given the hitout he enjoyed during the trial, he hasn't needed too much work since though yesterday he simply floated to the line as he came through 800 metres with stablemate, Winged Foot.
Three other horses appeared to work well yesterday for this last race, though one of them, Namjong Again, is a bit of a trackwork deceiver.
He put in a brilliant effort on the track yesterday but his race performances seldom match his work.
The other two were Top Performance and Jharna. Top Performance came through a pleasing last quarter in 23.8 seconds under Darryll Holland, matching strides with Mr Snip who has come to himself.
Top Performance is handicapped right up to his best form and probably a little bit above it but, on the evidence of yesterday's work, could still run into the tierce.
Jharna matched strides with the improving Active Luck in work from the barriers and falls into much the same category as Top Performance.
Indeed, looking up and down the field for the last race, it is Top-Worth who is the one horse who is almost certainly still a bit ahead of the handicapper's vice-like grip.
For the first race, Sure Day showed that he is holding his form well when clocking one minute 18.7 under Darren Gauci.
Their problem will be overcoming barrier 10 tomorrow night for this 975-metre affair though trainer Kenny Kam will be desperate for another winner to boost his appeal for a licence for next season.
Ivan Allan's Active Luck appears to have improved again in readiness for the third though this is a tough event and represents a definite step up in grade for the youngster.
There was a strong piece from Wong Tang-ping's progressive stayer, Action Win, in preparation for the 2,230-metre fourth event.
He went to the line well with Call Me Horse, who is always a good worker, in 1:18.2 and still has more improvement to come.
Rising Sun has started to work better for Neville Begg, doing well yesterday to go every bit as well, if not better than Noble Regent, as they swung through their last quarter in 24.7 seconds.
Rising Sun will relish every metre of the trip and could be the surprise package in the race.
Dolphin looked in good shape for the sixth for which likely favourite, Perkyman, was not seen out at work yesterday morning.
The other good worker for the sixth was Lawrie Fownes' Picador though it was just possible that he was going a little too freely which won't help him see out the mile.
Conversely, the move back up in distance is exactly what Dolphin has been looking for.