Grand stayer still has winning spirit
GAME old stayer Spirits Bay could continue the excellent season being enjoyed by trainer Bruce Hutchison by winning the third event at Happy Valley today on the first day of the double-header before the Chinese New Year break, writes Robin Parke.
Spirits Bay won comfortably at his last start on the Sha Tin dirt over 2,400 metres but the nine-year-old will not object to going to the city track where he has scored in style in the past.
In this modest combined Classes Four and Five event, Spirits Bay heads the weights with 140 pounds but if he can shoulder that burden he is well up to winning this 11-runner contest.
Hutchison knows all there is to know about the stayer and it is a fact that the Australian mentor has his team going brilliantly this campaign. So much so that he has at least 12 new horses earmarked for the yard next season - a far cry from a couple of seasons back when his licence was in jeopardy.
Hutchison has engaged leading British rider Richard Quinn for Spirits Bay, keeping intact the partnership that won on the dirt last time when they disposed of Treasure and Fortune Partner.
That win was just before Christmas so Spirits Bay has had plenty of time to get over his exertions of that night and be freshened up for another crack at the major prize.
The new-look Happy Valley is not for all horses and all riders, for that matter, but Spirits Bay and Quinn should have no problems. As has been said before, it is encouraging, from a betting point of view, to have a quality Northern Hemisphere jockey aboard in staying races - and particularly those round the Valley.
Spirits Bay, on his current and best form, has precious little to fear in this field where a couple will find it tricky at the trip and others do not appear to be in top form.
The weight is the obvious concern and Spirits Bay has not been asked to carry this amount to victory in the past. But there has to be a first time and at least those supporting the horse know they have one in winning form.
Trust Myself shapes as the real danger and it would be no surprise to see him jump close to favourite but claimer Richard K. M. So will have his problems at this trip on this track and it might not pay to be too involved, particularly if the price is too short.
Pleasant Win is blinkered for the first time and must be a solid chance with Basil Marcus aboard while Winning Stallion won last time - a big effort, too - but may find it tough against Spirits Bay on their overall form over the past two seasons.