Splendid show as Stevens doubles up
GARY Stevens continued as the latest pin-up boy of Hong Kong racing with another superb double at Sha Tin yesterday.
The American star has made a massive impact on the local racing scene in a month and that will surely continue given the excellence of his riding which, like the very best in any sport, he makes looks so easy.
Stevens started a lot of punters off on the right foot when he produced Partner (9-2) with a strong, late run to run down Jade (20-1) close home and take the Class Five, 1,400-metre event.
He completed the double with arguably the best ride of the meeting when maiden Splendid (6-1) finally broke through to win the featured P & O Challenge Cup, the fourth event on the card.
If there is a single secret to Stevens' remarkable success in this highly-competitive environment, it is his balance.
It matters little where he puts horses in a field, they respond naturally, effortlessly to his easy promptings.
Stevens, who has won every major race in America, has quickly learned what racing here is about and he was seen yesterday getting his horses through along the rails, in between other horses and, in a nutshell, giving them all a chance.
Splendid was a big win and kept the excellent recent run of trainer John Moore going.
Betting in the race was dominated by the David Hill-trained Buddy (7-2 favourite) with Irish import Flying Tiger and Hong Kong Supreme both on the next line at 9-2.
None of the fancied runners gave their supporters much reason for hope.
Buddy, who had won a race at Happy Valley much as he pleased, raced a bit keenly but had little to offer when they straightened for home.
Flying Tiger made some progress along the rail but was never a factor while Hong Kong Supreme, brought back to a distance which on his overseas form looked suitable, finished last in the 13-runner field.
Splendid, meanwhile, did everything right under the masterful guidance of Stevens who produced him through the centre and went on to win by a half length from topweight Noble Dancer (10-1) who ran better with the application of blinkers.
Regal Ridge (12-1) had not been seen for some time but ran a most encouraging third and looks ready to win one soon.
Schnitzer (99-1) finished fourth, just ahead of Flying Tiger, with favourite Buddy a sad seventh.
Partner had not been seen since the first day of the season but had done some good work leading up to yesterday's opener and Stevens, having settled him perfectly, brought him through in the straight with the six-year-old responding readily.
Jade bled in running but finished second for Alan Munro, while favourite I'm A Ripper (3-1) was not at home at the distance.
He was ridden along early by Gerald Mosse to gain a position but found nothing in the straight and finished sixth.