Griffins impress as going eases up
THERE are several points to take note of regarding Saturday's meeting at Sha Tin and it should not surprise that the going ranks high on the list.
The recent ease in the ground was reflected with a good to yielding report for last Wednesday's card at Happy Valley but the Sha Tin turf was officially reported as only good, despite the fact that the times indicate the going was virtually identical for both tracks.
As far as achievement on the course and future punting opportunities are concerned, it was the weekend's opening griffin race that stands out.
Manta Ray returned an improved performance to spring something of a surprise in the Lane Crawford Gold Pfeil Plate. But make no mistake, in earning a Topspeed rating of 43, the time confirms that this win was in no way a fluke.
Only the second griffin race over 1,200 metres so far this season, this was by far the most significant contest of the pair and on the clock Manta Ray rates the fourth best griffin seen out so far.
The top 10 griffins this year have been: Diamond Fortune 56; River Star 47; Double Expresso 45; Manta Ray 43; Gallant Dragon 42; Grand Way 40; District Relative 40; Diamond Fortune 39; Palace Glory 37; Hawky 32.
Indeed, with seven of the top 10 griffins seen out this term, it is clear that Saturday's contest was the strongest yet in terms of strength in depth and newcomers Gallant Dragon, District Relative, Palace Glory and Hawky all have bright futures.
With three runs to his name prior to this, Grand Way (40) had already shown enough to win a race but he was slow away here and failed to get the run of the race. Nevertheless, he did exceptionally well to stay on into third and actually clocked an identical speed figure as when filling the same spot behind Diamond Fortune and River Star. In short, the Brian Kan-trained youngster remains a winner waiting to happen.
River Star will have disappointed those who laid the odds about him but a Topspeed of 47 suggests he actually ran his best race to date, improving a pound on his previous highest rating.
As visually impressive as his win a week earlier was, a lowly rating of 14 clearly put that effort into perspective and, under his penalty, this was a fine effort.
It is also worth remembering that increased weights can often have more effect on these developing youngsters than older animals and, rather than disappointing, River Star was simply outperformed at the weights.
In reality, he actually comes out best of the 12 runners in terms of raw rating and there is little doubt that there will be more races to be won with this one.
The best performance of the afternoon relative to class was that of Wonderful who returned a speedfigure of 37 in landing the Class Five Lane Crawford Di Sandro Handicap over 1,200 metres.
Under a fine ride by Darryll Holland, Wonderful obviously relished the give in the ground and is entitled to score again under similar conditions.
In running second and equalling his previous best rating of 39, Jay Ee Eight confirmed he is ideally suited by this trip rather than the 1,400 metres of his previous two starts. Congratulations is obviously another who likes to get his toe in and he clocked a very satisfactory 53 in demolishing his field in the 1,600-metre Lane Crawford Gold Master Handicap. Smiling landed the feature 2,000-metre race under an enterprising ride by Pat Eddery and a relatively poor Topspeed of 59 and moderate early splits confirm that this was far from a true staying test.
In short, the form has a far from solid look to it and should be treated with a little caution when considering future punts.
There was little to get excited about from last Wednesday's meeting at the Valley, with race times on the whole in keeping with the class and ability of animal on show but without any standing out as particularly noteworthy.