Hill ready for late-season run
By ROBIN PARKE
TRAINER David Hill invariably comes into his own late in the season and a winning Sha Tin double yesterday suggests that this stable will be worth following in the weeks ahead.
Stable jockey John Marshall was seen to real advantage on griffin winner Distinct Relative (4-1) and gave enigmatic Top-Worth (7-2) - a last-start flop at Happy Valley - an understanding ride to win the fifth race on the Gold Cup Day card.
With River Verdon running a quality race in the feature, it was a good day at the office for both men who have had a season of fluctuating fortunes.
Hill said: 'The season is a long way from being over and I am very confident that we are going to have more winners. John and I work well together and I was pleased for both of us, frankly, that things went well today.' They have a good one in District Relative who comfortably won what was the hottest griffin contest so far this season.
District Relative had finished fast for fourth at his racecourse debut, understandably showing signs of greenness - but also latent ability.
He was up against Manta Ray, who had won that previous event, and Gallant Dragon who had finished second - with both horses demonstrably improved from that run.
Marshall rode a race of admirable patience, allowing District Relative to settle, relax and then come into the race soon after they straightened. District Relative was not subjected to bustling tactics and when Marshall asked him for a real effort, he responded admirably.
The youngster is going to be very hard to beat over more ground as he quickened up like a good horse to reel in Manta Ray and Gallant Dragon before posting a half-length win.
The Irish import was going away on the line and Marshall said: 'He is a good young horse and he will learn a lot from that today. He had already learned from his first start and I am sure he will really appreciate more ground.
'I thought going into the race that he would run really well but the worry really was whether he would find the trip too short, particularly on the C Course.
'But he picked it up very well when I had to ask him for his effort. I actually thought Gallant Dragon would be the hardest to beat as he had run so well last time, too.' Topweight Grand Way, who won last time out over 1,000 metres, finished third while Gallant Dragon found little under real pressure close home and ran fourth.
Leading Lantern (5-1) finished fifth under Gary Stevens.
Top-Worth repaid connections for his last-start flop at Happy Valley when he got the better of race favourite Chagall (5-2) in the Class Two, 1,400-metre event in which both horses completely dominated the betting.
Top-Worth found absolutely nothing at the Valley but clearly prefers Sha Tin, as trainer Hill explained: 'John told me he was looking all around him at the Valley and he also missed the kick slightly. It was a poor run and we were obviously concerned.
'His best effort, of course, had been beating Able Monarch here when the saddle slipped and that did give me some confidence. Judging by this, he has to be one for Sha Tin rather than the Valley.' Mick Kinane, who rode the runner-up, said: 'He did not find a lot when he came under pressure. I would say he was a little disappointing.'