Hutchison looks to lift Spirits
IT has been a trying season for trainer Bruce Hutchison, but things took a turn for the better at Sha Tin last Saturday when Mughal Prince obliged and he can chalk up another winner at the same venue tonight.
Midweek night racing resumes after an unusual two-week break following the temporary closure of Happy Valley with just six events on the programme. With present temperatures dipping and Sha Tin not an ideal venue for a night meeting - it's too large as compared to the arena-style Valley track - it will be interesting to note the level of spectator support.
But the long-serving Hutchison won't be worrying how many are on the course to cheer home stayer Spirits Bay in the fourth event on the card.
And the eight-year-old definitely will give a sight in this 13-runner race over 2,200 metres which is tailor-made for the galloper.
Hutchison has already snared a win with Spirits Bay this season when Walter Swinburn rode him to victory in a 1,600-metre Sha Tin race. It was a top ride from the winter visitor and Spirits Bay showed plenty of determination in getting up in the last two strides to win.
Hutchison is clearly hoping for a repeat. 'To be fair, though, I was a bit disappointed in him last time. I engaged Pat Eddery to ride him in a 2,230-metre race at Happy Valley and I thought he would run a decent race, but he did not impress at all.
'It puzzled me a bit, but I have come to believe that he is really much better suited these days by Sha Tin. What put me off was that he did run well and win at Happy Valley earlier in his career.
'But these days I just think he finds it a lot easier at Sha Tin and he can use the longer straight to really get home.' The Australian trainer has turned to English jockey Alan Munro and he is certainly riding in top form at the moment.
'I know a bit about the horse and I am pleased to have the ride. If he runs up to some of the form he has shown, and particularly that run with Walter, then we must be in with a chance,' said Munro, who looks certain to come in for a lot of top rides between now and the end of the season.
But Spirits Bay is by no means past the post in a race which may test some, but is ideally suitable for others in the field.
Topweight Everbright took some time to find his Hong Kong form, but it is worth noting anew that New Zealand gallopers - and particularly stayers - do need time. However, when they do hit winning form they can maintain it - as Everbright has shown.
He's a winner of two of his past three and was a neck second in between his winning runs, providing solid evidence that the staying game is very much his caper.
This is harder and he will again carry his share of weight, but he will get maximum assistance from title-chasing Frenchman Eric Legrix.
He is enjoying a fantastic season with another double on Saturday and Everbright, who likes to do it from the front, will get all the help he needs. Legrix was seen at his dynamic best on Win Tack on Saturday, an example of a horse who did it basically from in front.
Pin-up boy Gary Stevens gets another call from trainer Wong Tang-ping and will partner Mount Sapphire for the man who is having the best season of his career.
Mount Sapphire is well worth noting and the engagement of Stevens will ensure plenty of support. Apprentice-ridden at his last start, he finished third but will appreciate the step up to 2,220 metres, over which trip he has won in the past.
Mount Sapphire is drawn in the extreme outside alley, but that seems to matter little to horses that the American rides and on Mount Sapphire's best form, he is a real chance in this.
The dark horse in the field could be South China's King who ran much better last time out when finishing four lengths off Champion Mascot and Super Power in the best run he has put in for a long time.
The distance suits and he is worth considering for a small tierce bet along with the horse who beat him home last time.
Champion Mascot will now be ridden by Tony Cruz and should give a sight while connections of Chater Star will be hoping for rain.
The David Hill-trained stayer goes yards better with ease in the ground, but there is little confidence to be gained from his past couple of runs.