Alan seeks cup solace
THE Centenary Cup has had a considerable dash of glamour added to it by the inclusion of Mr Vitality who reverts to the short sprint just six days after failing in his main target, the Hong Kong Derby. A discussion between trainer Ivan Allan and owner Larry Yung Chi-kin resulted in Mr Vitality being declared for the second leg of the Sprint Championship and it is not difficult to understand why.
After all, the versatile Mr Vitality did win the first leg of the Sprint crown back at Happy Valley when narrowly beating Winning Partners. The Derby has eluded him but the Sprint Championship could provide some compensation. That, of course, is on paper. In reality, Mr Vitality is being asked to climb something of a mountain. He is coming back very dramatically in distance in such a short time and that after, when all is said and done, a disappointing effort.
There may well be excuses for Mr Vitality centring round a tardy start and the pace of the race but, in the end, he never struck a blow at all and that was the most disappointing factor. There had been doubts expressed about his ability to run out 1,800 metres, but in the end it didn't down to that. Mr Vitality could not get into the race at any stage.
But the straight dash down the 1,000 metres at Sha Tin is very much the other side of the coin. The horse has usually shown speed, but is it the type of speed that will get him into a short sprint race? It is much more likely, and desirable, that Mr Vitality will jump fairly from his barrier in the middle of the field and be in touch.
If all is well, then he could come right into calculations over the final 100 metres - but, as his trainer warned on the eve of declarations, he is not necessarily a betting proposition. It is likely that, despite the Derby flop, Mr Vitality will start quite a short-priced favourite for this and that does not make too much sense. Whatever Mr Vitality's best distance may be, it is not 1,000 metres. Allan, the former champion trainer, certainly has strength in depth.
He will have more owners and jockeys gathered round him in the paddock than the combined scrums at Murrayfield later tonight when Scotland go for the Grand Slam. Allan starts six runners and several have chances, but the two horses who could emerge on top in the second leg of the Sprint Championship are Supreme Goliath and Winning Partners. The latter was worked in blinkers recently, but did not go well and it could be significant that no move has been made to apply the aid in today's event. If the sluggish effort was due to the blinkers, then Winning Partners is definitely worth putting in.
He has won really well course and distance and will be handled by Gerald Mosse who got off the mark on Wednesday night. Winning Partners may have been a shade unlucky not to win the Happy Valley Trophy - first leg of the championship - when he was nailed on the line by Mr Vitality. As he is a proven performer over the straight course, the temptation is there to tip and back him.
On his best form, he would be the straightforward choice but the recent work places a slight doubt over him. Not so Supreme Goliath who is going from strength to strength, but also back in distance. His two superb winning efforts have both been over the longer sprint and now he must come back to the straight dash - although there are many who believe that the straight 1,000 metres equates to 1,400 metres round bends. That is worth bearing in mind, too, when assessing Mr Vitality's chances.