Deauville looks best of bunch
QUIET. Marie Celeste quiet. That's the only way to describe yesterday's Sha Tin trackwork session where one horse stood out head and shoulders above the rest.
He was Patrick Biancone's unbeaten private purchase griffin, Deauville, who looks to have been brought on considerably by his strong piece of work on Friday morning.
With these younger horses, it is not just how they work when they work but how they progress for each serious piece.
Deauville has progressed all right. No doubt about that.
He hasn't just progressed from Friday's hitout, he has changed significantly over the past couple of months.
That is the beauty of watching these young horses.
They transform in front of your very eyes and when they go the way that Deauville is almost certainly going, it is a pleasure to behold.
Even the most cynical, knarled, wizened of trackwatchers could fail to be moved by the progress.
He's always had a sleek athleticism about him, but it used to be contained within a kind of teenage mental attitude and a few layers of puppy fat.
That mental and physical immaturity is disappearing with every race and every piece of work.
Yesterday he looked in simply outstanding physical shape.
An absolute credit to his trainer and as near to a racing certainty as you can get in Saturday's first section of the Class Three mile handicap.
Having said that, I'm reminded of the old racing adage: 'There's only been three racing certainties . . . and two of those got beaten.' Biancone is using Saturday's race as a stepping stone to the Sha Tin Vase on May 20 and a mouth-watering clash with the likes of possible champion Mr Vitality and exciting Centurion Trophy winner, Viva Icta.
'The mile should suit him. The race should give him that vital experience and then we will think about the Sha Tin Vase. One step at a time,' said Biancone.
Looking at tomorrow's treacherous all-weather meeting at Sha Tin, the best advice is probably to keep bets to a minimum and wait for Saturday's grass fixture.
But if you must have a bet, then another Biancone runner is a very interesting prospect in tomorrow night's fourth event.
He's Power Protection who is stepping out for the first time for the great French handler, having joined him nine weeks ago from Lam Hung-fie.
That is plenty long enough for Biancone to have worked his bit of Gallic magic and while the all-weather surface is the last thing that a horse like Power Protection wants, it will be hard to let him go round unsupported.
He has thrived since moving to Biancone whose record with the horses he has taken over from other stables is too good to ignore, witness Bumper Star, American Star and Daiquiri.
Power Protection went particularly well in a trial down the straight 1,000-metre chute at the beginning of the month.
He was outpaced early on, as he always is - and that's the big worry tomorrow - but there was a new-found strength in the way he hit the line in that trial, with Simon 'Hong Kong' Yim showing he's learned a few tricks from his master by the way he kept Power Protection out of the fray over the last 50 metres.
Due to his lack of early pace, it is a risk that Power Protection will get too far back and not be able to make up the ground on the all-weather surface which does favour horses with speed.
Should this happen, any losses will only be lent. He should oblige on the grass.
Biancone's Scada yesterday put in by far his best gallop of recent weeks in his final hitout for the fifth event, where he will be suited by the 2,400 metres.
But he was only beating Tom's Charge who has had more than his fair share of problems and is reappearing after a spell. The stable's senior jockey, Eric Legrix, is on board Forever Ahead who could well have been set specifically for this race. He ran much better than is appreciated last time out when ridden by inexperienced girl apprentice Sherie Kong, hitting the line pretty hard. Ivan Allan has kept Speedy Good fresh for the first for which Bruce Hutchison's Light-Hearted has gone a little better.
There's been improvement in his work from Gary Ng Ting-keung's Follow Me in readiness for the second, but he is another who will be better suited by grass and a move up to 2,000 metres.