Universe keeps spinning
NOT many horses in Hong Kong can notch up four successive victories, but Supreme Universe can do just that and take the Governor's Cup as his prize at Happy Valley tonight. The feature race on the seven-event programme is full of interest and the Governor, even if he isn't a dyed-in-the-wool racing man, should get a further indication of just why the sport means so much to so many in Hong Kong. This 1,800-metre event for Classes One and Two has all the hallmarks of a thriller round the revamped Valley course, but Supreme Universe and talented local rider Jackie C. K. Tse are tipped to come out on top - again.
That the four-year-old is a progressive type virtually goes without saying, but his overall form was given an even bigger boost at the weekend when the Patrick Biancone-trained Michael's Choice scooted straight into Class One and the Derby reckoning with his success in the final event. Michael's Choice was the last horse to get the better of Supreme Universe back on November 11 when they met in Class Four at Sha Tin.
It has to be noted, however, that Michael's Choice did beat Supreme Universe by over five lengths but the distance, too, was 1,400 metres and that is not the right trip for trainer Alex Wong Siu-tan's rising staying star. Since then he has been impeccably ridden by Tse - and the local lad deserves great credit - on three subsequent occasions for tidy wins and a steady march up the ratings. Handicappers the world over do not like to see anything slip past them and Supreme Universe goes up a solid 12 rating points since his last win which was at the Valley and over 2,200 metres.
On that occasion he accounted for Legitimate, who reopposes tonight on nine pounds better terms for a length and a quarter so there is plenty of reason to believe that the David Oughton-trained galloper could turn the tables. A number of them involved in the 12-runner event are coming back to tonight's trip of 1,800 metres over which distance Supreme Universe has scored solidly.
It may all come down to still remaining on the right side of the assessor and that is a little hard to gauge. Hong Kong punters tend to shy away from horses who have put together a number of wins and it may well be that Supreme Universe is at backable odds tonight. There will be plenty of money to say that Legitimate will reverse placings, but there are doubts about this. The Last Tycoon four-year-old looked to give Irish ace Mick Kinane a pretty hard ride last time, seemingly disinclined to go about his business in the middle stages of the 2,200-metre event and possibly unsuited to the Valley.
There was quite a bit of pushing and shoving from Kinane until Legitimate did get into the action and then he came home very strongly to snatch second place without troubling the winner. There are two obvious concerns about Legitimate - the distance and the track. If Legitimate was not necessarily handling the course last time there is little reason to suppose he will go any better tonight and the shorter distance does not look to be a plus factor either. However, he has ability and if he does knuckle down to the task under Kinane he must become an obvious factor in the outcome. And what of Saladin? He actually beat Michael's Choice at his last start on International Day so there can be no faulting that form.
Punters may have to decide whether it was a flash in the pan and whether the Neville Begg-trained galloper is going to be at his best over 1,800 metres. Visiting Walter Swinburn is on the David Hayes-trained Cottage View who ran his best race in the Classic Trial on Saturday. Prior to that run he had been jotted down as totally unreliable and it may still pay to oppose him.