Champion trio in form
AMERICAN Club Challenge Cup day at Sha Tin last night had a very familiar ring to it with champions John Moore and Tony Cruz taking the limelight along with the former title holder Basil Marcus. Moore, the top trainer for four of the past five seasons, was in near unstoppable form. He saddled a treble courtesy of Palace Glory, Gagne Vite and Canadian Champ in the first, second and fourth events and in the process handed a riding double to Cruz who was on board his first and third winners. But Marcus is nothing if not tenacious. He has already declared that his number one goal this season is to snatch back the title that Cruz managed to wrench from his grasp last term. As if to underline this aim he immediately hit back with a double of his own.
He gave debut trainer Andy Leung Wah-ting his inaugural winner and then took the feature event with the highly progressive sprinter Winning Spirit for his retaining handler Ivan Allan. Allan missed Winning Spirit's pillar-to-post victory as he is away in England and Ireland, scouring the sales at Tattersalls and Goffs.
Cruz was the first to leave the track, wearing the kind of smile that is normally the possession of Marcus after a winning night. 'I didn't really think I had that good a book of rides tonight,' laughed Cruz. 'So to come away with a double is a tremendous bonus.' Cruz then added: 'Full marks to John [Moore] for getting Palace Glory forward enough to win. 'I knew he had a fair amount of ability from his work but was just a bit worried that he would need the race. 'In some ways he did as we only just held on and I'd say that while Palace Glory is no superstar, he will improve.' Cruz did well to get Canadian Champ home in the fourth as he faced strong challenges from both Super Fellow and Palette Star on his inside before prevailing by a neck and a head. Moore also benefited from a great ride when Piere Strydom flashed home late in his inimitable, stalking style to take the second on Gagne Vite by a head from the unfancied but very well handicapped Lucky Sound who was once a near top-notcher when racing in England under the name of Wrybil for the late Jeremy Tree. Gagne Vite was yet another example of a horse showing his best form of old when starting for the first time for a new handler. There's no more potent winner-finding system in the territory than paying close attention to those horses that have changed stables and are racing for the first or second time for their new handler. Win Chung did nothing wrong on Lucky Sound, who is a nap should he encounter a rain-affected track, and is an improving 10-pound claimer well worth her allowance.
Winning Spirit won three of his four outings as a griffin last season and has looked a natural sprinter from the very first moment he stepped out on to the Sha Tin work tracks last campaign. This time round he has come back into work looking to have improved both mentally and physically. He is more relaxed than last season, though he still gave a bit of trouble at the barriers before making all to hold the consistent Able Monarch and Green Supreme by half a length and the same. He may have been racing from the bottom of the weight scale on 119 pounds but it was still a big effort as he is a young Southern Hemisphere three-year-old and was last night taking on some useful older handicappers. He can be relied upon to progress from this run and it wouldn't be a surprise to see him holding his own in Class One sprints as the season unfolds.