Weather to play role in outcome

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 31 March, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 31 March, 1996, 12:00am

HEAVY rain which has turned Taipa very soft adds a spicy element of real chance to today's $1.4 million Macau Derby where the brilliant George Moore-trained Winning Touch will start a firm favourite. Three weeks ago, defeat would have been unheard of for the Australian gelding who romped away with the Derby Trial by five lengths.

'He's the best horse in Macau and this was a superb win,' said former French and multiple Hong Kong champion jockey Gary Moore after that success. Father George, a riding legend and a magnificent trainer on his retirement, has put everything into getting Winning Touch absolutely ready for today's Derby. The simple queries do not centre round Winning Touch's ability but over the trip and the ground. The horse has not run further than 1,500 metres or been on ground which is likely to end up heavy rather than the advance official going of soft. The worse the ground gets the more likely it is to blunt the obvious brilliance of Winning Touch and make it that much harder for him to run out a strong 1,800 metres. But no horse will strip in better condition and it may still be unwise to take too strong a position against Winning Touch.

One-time Hong Kong star Geoff Allendorf, the first Taipa champion jockey, has the right material under him with the Gordon Benson-trained Alex Win. Allendorf is bullish about his prospects, while admitting that the favourite is the one to beat. 'I know that my fellow is all right at the trip, he's won three out of three over it and he likes it wet, too. Those are the advantages that have sort of come our way, but you cannot dispute that Winning Touch deserves to be favourite,' said Allendorf. Only four in the field of 14 have winning or placed form over the Derby trip and one of them is Lucky Day who will be ridden by American ace Jose Santos for trainer Louis K. S. Ho. Ho, a former Hong Kong rider and also a Macau champion jockey, has made a quietly successful start to his training career at Taipa and a Derby success would be an enormous boost for the stable. Lucky Day finished second to Winning Touch in the Derby Trial so has five lengths to find which is not going to be easy.

But he is worth putting in as he is proven at this distance. Former Curragh-based trainer Danny Murphy has begun to saddle up the winners after a quiet start to his Far East career and he has Hay Wick involved in the Classic. French ace Gerald Mosse is on the Moore-trained second string Fighting Fit but they will have it to do and former Macau Derby-winning jockey Grant Davison may go closer on another Moore-trained runner, Truly Smile.