Derby ripe for Allan's picking
By Racing Editor LAWRENCE WADEY
IVAN Allan's biggest danger come Derby day could be himself.
'That's a problem I can live with,' smiled Allan after his Mr Vitality had beaten Deauville by a classy three-quarters of a length in the Classic Trial on Saturday.
Deauville will be a worthy opponent once again in three weeks time, especially as he is trained by Patrick Biancone who is as good as any handler in the world when it comes to setting one for the big occasion.
Arc de Triomphes, English and Irish Champion Stakes, French Derbies, Rothman and Washington Internationals are testimony to the fact that Deauville won't be 100 per cent ready on February 25 he'll be 110 per cent primed.
But it has to be doubted as to whether he can reverse the form with Mr Vitality who looked to win with a fair bit more in hand than the official winning margin suggests.
Against this background the main rival to Mr Vitality could be his stablemate, Citadeed, who has won in Grade Two company in the United States as well as running third in the Grade One Belmont Stakes which is part of the American Triple Crown.
Citadeed, formerly owned by Allan himself but set to race for the first time for Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club Steward Alan Li in a 1,200-metre event at Sha Tin on Sunday, thus has excellent form credentials.
What's more, the overall balance of his form suggests that he is more likely to have trained on from three to four years old than the Irish 2,000 Guineas runner-up Adjareli who ran a respectable third in the Classic Trial, a further 23/4 lengths adrift of runner-up Deauville.
Allan would not be drawn on who rides Citadeed at the weekend, he declined to even speculate as to whether the same jockey who rides him this coming weekend will also ride him in the Derby.
Indeed, Allan went so far as to say Citadeed may even win by five lengths and not run in the Derby if he and his owner thought the Blue Riband event had come even the tiniest bit too soon.
As far as the most worldly Allan is concerned, such reticence almost certainly serves to underline the fact that he has the biggest danger to Mr Vitality's Derby chances in his own stable.
It is a position most trainers dream about.
It was good to see the in-coming Jockey Club chief executive Lawrence Wong at trackwork on Friday morning, immediately adopting a hands-on, sleeves-up approach to his position.
He's even had the Jockey Club photographers in the press room taking pictures of the leading racing journalists and been reading up on their backgrounds.
All this tends to suggest he will be following in the footsteps of the departing supremo, Major General Guy Watkins, and adopting a very open stance with the media. And that can only be good for racing.
German jockey Peter Schiergen left a meeting early and so shouldn't be invited back again.
He didn't appear to be as bad a rider as some have suggested. Admittedly he didn't look at all stylish, particularly when using the whip, but he was a good tactical rider.
All the same, he shouldn't be invited back again for another month as he couldn't be bothered to fulfil his own one-month contract.
After all there are plenty of world-class jockeys who would give their right arm to have been licensed for the same month - there was one riding in Macau yesterday, a certain Pat Eddery with 10 British championships to his name.
The Jockey Club took an understandable gamble when preferring Schiergen and he has not repaid their faith.
As for Philip Johnston's statement that valuable links have been made with the German authorities and that our apprentices can now go and ride their in the close season, well the first part may be true but what could our apprentices learn in Germany? It is more likely that Messrs Simon 'Kong Kong' Yim, Stanley Chin, James Chan and Peter Ho could teach the German hoops a thing or two.
The change in the safety limit to the 1,200-metre sprints at Happy Valley and the change in the mile distance from 1,600 to 1,650 metres could not have come too soon.
The continuing interference and falls - Felix Coetzee was the latest lucky rider to escape unscathed on Saturday - underline the need for the powers that be to stress safety factors and this is a particularly good way.
Patrick Biancone even went as far as to suggest that the field size should be trimmed from 14 to 12 for the 1,000-metre dashes.
While these moves are themselves to be praised, they are a poor reflection on the track itself which is clearly not living up to its billing as being of international standard.