Deerfield back on right course
DEERFIELD is back. Alex Wong Yu-on's private purchase griffin sensation from last season finished hard on the bridle when a close second to Right Way in a brilliant fourth of nine barrier trials at Sha Tin yesterday morning.
The trial read like a Who's Who of Hongkong racing with River Verdon cruising home in third having been held up in the rear of his field and then making significant late headway.
But it was Deerfield who put in the most meaningful performance. He started this season as the young pretender to River Verdon's crown on the strength of his sensational five-length annihilation of older and more experienced rivals in the Sha Tin Vase last spring.
Deerfield's win prompted jockey Brent Thomson to compare him with some of the best horses he's ever ridden, even the likes of the great Dulcify on whom Thomson won the W.S. Cox Plate by seven lengths.
Deerfield then disappointed badly on his only start when failing to make any impression behind Right Way in the Sha Tin Trophy.
His work became even worse after the Sha Tin Trophy and he was then found to be suffering from a virus - his second of the campaign as he had also suffered from a temperature in early August.
Wong then gave him a good couple of months off and there were grave fears that Deerfield may never recapture his form let alone fulfil his enormous potential.
But Wong has managed to bring Deerfield slowly back to form. His trackwork had been most promising going into yesterday's trial, particularly from the barriers down the back straight, indicating that he was coming back to his best.
Yesterday's trial confirmed it. He ran easily alongside the speedy Right Way from the moment they hit the gates.
Felix Coetzee asked Right Way for more of an effort over the final 200 metres than Brent Thomson required from Deerfield yet Deerfield still managed to effortlessly match strides with Right Way.
Thomson said: ''I had been really pleased with the way he had been working going into yesterday's trial and that was just what we needed and just what he needed.
''It showed us our impressions were right - he's doing just fine. And it will help blow the cobwebs away.
''I'm really looking forward to him starting. He seems to be on schedule. It's horses like him that racing is all about.'' The way Deerfield is going, he will take plenty of beating in the Derby Trial and then the Derby itself which is now building up into an intriguing contest.
Right Way will be one of Deerfield's main rivals in the Blue Riband event. There was nothing wrong with the way he went yesterday and River Verdon was his usual classy self.
Endeavour was the disappointment of the trial. He knocked up badly in the final 100 metres and would be hard to bet on this effort.
Wylie Wong's Make It Happen made all in the opening trial to win easily from the Derek Cruz-trained Dawn Raid.
Make It Happen had caught the eye in a trial down the straight 1,000 metres at the beginning of last month and looks to have a fair amount of natural speed.
Given that he is trained by Wylie Wong he could start at reasonable odds. Dawn Raid is getting better and better with each gallop and could do something around a mile.
Of those in behind, there was plenty to like about Neville Begg's private purchase griffin, Jolly Good Winner, a massive son of Persian Heights that Neville Begg bought at the Newmarket sales for a bargain price.
For such a big horse, Jolly Good Winner, moves very fluently. Persian Heights has yet to do much at stud but he was a real champion on the track and it can't be long before he has some useful progeny.
Begg took a modest second trial with Cheesecake who has so far been most disappointing since arriving from New Zealand with some useful form to his name.
There is a race for all horses in Hongkong providing they drop far enough down the weights but even accounting for that maxim it may still be best to treat Cheesecake with caution.
Another weak horse, the diminutive Shyana, took the third trial from Shun Wah Treasure and Begg's Winning Partners who went very well to the line.
First trial 1, MAKE IT HAPPEN (C. H. Yip); 2, Dawn Raid (A. Munro); 3, Kwacha (D. Beadman). Others (in finishing order): Fast King, Ever Win, Jolly Good Winner, Flirting Dancer, Berkut, Sweet Win, Strike It Hot, Triple Joy, Money Fountain, Dragon Field. Time: 0.59.4 (24.2). Distances: 4l, 2l. Winner trained by Wong Wai-lit.
Second trial 1, CHEESECAKE (K. Chu); 2, New Pegasus (C. W. Choi); 3, River Serein (B. Marcus). Others: First Asia, Always Victory, Sunnyland, Smile For Me, Splendid Run, Green Peace, Cricket Lord, Broad Shoulder, Three Joys, Excellent Harvest. Time: 1.00.5(23.4). Distances: 11/2l, 1/2l. Winner trained by Neville Begg.
Third trial 1, SHYANA (A. S. Cruz); 2, Shun Wah Treasure (D. Beadman); 3, Winning Partners (R. Thompson). Others: Swordford, New Trend, Candle Friend, Comander, New Way, California Gold, Due Diligence, Dashing, Lucky Winner, Win Again. Time: 0.58.8 (24.3).Distances: Nk, 3/4l. Winner trained by Wong Tang-ping.
Fourth Trial 1, RIGHT WAY (F. Coetzee); 2, Deerfield (B. Thomson); 3, River Verdon (B. Marcus). Others: Super Structure, Charming Talker, Appreciation, Group Leader, Star Of Lihlin, My Home Town, Owner's Dream, Endeavour, Trust Myself, Fortune Winner. Time: 0.59.0 (23.1). Distances: Nk, 11/4l. Winner trained by Kan Ping-chee.
Fifth trial 1, FORTINBRAS (B. Marcus); 2, Great Admiral (K. S. Lam); 3, A Secret Weapon (W. H. Tse). Others: Clear Spray, Craig's Dragon, Tango Knight, Aashiq, Rainbow Connection, Souper, King Star, Realms Of Gold, Heavily Armed, Grand Vefour. Time: 0.59.5(24.1). Distances: 3l, 1l. Winner trained by Wong Yu-on.
Sixth trial 1, CHIU CHOW KID (K. Chu); 2, Outerwear (D. Beadman); 3, Make My Day (C. K. Chung). Others: Optic World, Ampersand, Dream Lover, Teppanyaki, Better Choice, Debonair, Master Glory, Vive Longtemps, Team Valour, Sky Eagle. Time: 0.59.8 (23.7). Distances: 1/2l, 1l. Winner trained by Neville Begg.
Seventh trial 1, SEE THE KING (D. Beadman); 2, Magic Run (K. M. Chin); 3, Race To Win (W. L. Ho). Others: Hat-trick, Dedicated Lover, Jungle Deer, Super Prince, Thor Win, Mighty General, Trade Win, Wonderful Moment, Figure It Out, Devon's Treasure. Time: 1.00.1 (24.1). Distances: 3l, nk. Winner trained by John Moore.
Eight trial 1, AL BUNDY (A. Munro); 2, Orchestra (D. Lee); 3, Wonderful Treasure (A. S. Cruz). Others: Super Win Boo, Raider's Luck, Cheguei, Lucky Knight, Kowloon Might, Splendid, Golden Era, Mighty Mighty, Grey Linnet, Brilliant Forever. Time: 1.00.4 (24.6). Distances: 2l, 1l. Winner trained by Chan Pak-hung.
Ninth trial 1, GOFORIT (M. Kinane); 2, Celestial Marshal (A. S. Cruz); 3, Ocean Pride (C. H. Yip). Others: How Free, Allocate, American Challenge, Futures, Ganbaria, Nickels King, Through Train, Wonderful, Casablanca, Gay Pegasus II. Time: 1.00.4 (24.4). Distances: 2l, 21/2l. Winner trained by David Oughton.
Begg may not have had too many winners so far this season but his team look to be coming to hand and he could well have a useful next couple of months.
His Chiu Chow Kid hinted at a return to form when galloping all over his rivals in the sixth trial.
Chiu Chow Kid made all the running to win over 1,200 metres at the end of the season before last on his first start for Begg and looks the type to go best when fresh.
The eighth heat was probably the next most revealing trial with Ivan Allan's private purchase griffin Mighty Mighty confirming his potential despite finishing in the ruck behind Al Bundy.
An extremely bad seventh heat went to John Moore's Class Six performer See The King who had run a fair second to Sky Eagle before running very badly when suffering from the virus on his next start. At least this trial showed there have been no lasting effects.
The final heat was almost as bad. It was won very easily by David Oughton's Goforit but then he is just the type to go well when there is no pressure on. He is an entirely different and much more risky proposition come race days.