Dolphin ready to make a splash
Track star Dolphin is strongly fancied to take the sixth event on the opening fixture of the new season at Sha Tin this afternoon.
There's plenty to look forward to on the day's card. Racing legend Tony Cruz saddles his first batch of runners as a trainer while new boys Larry Cassidy, Paul Eddery and Douglas Whyte will be desperately keen to kick off with a winner - as will the old favourites of seasons past, Philip Robinson and Wendyll Woods.
Whyte, the accomplished South African jockey, appears to have the strongest book of rides as Fireball will also take plenty of beating in the third.
Dolphin has not stopped improving over the past two seasons under the care of local trainer Gary Ng Ting-keung. Last season the son of Marscay ran five times for a win, a short head second and three thirds.
His campaign finished prematurely as he wasn't seen out again after that short head second to David Oughton's improving stayer, Legitimate, in the prestigious Governor's Cup which was for Classes One and Two performers over the Valley's 1,800 metres.
That form looks rock solid as not only was Dolphin beaten just a short head by the improving Legitimate, the pair drew over four lengths clear of third-placed Conticasta.
When the first two dominate their rivals in this manner it is usually a sign of decent form. And don't worry that on his only subsequent outing Legitimate was beaten into fourth behind Smiling as he didn't get the run of the race at all that day.
Dolphin was obviously wrong after that second to Legitimate otherwise he would have been sent out again. But he has more than recovered from whatever was troubling him in the second half of the season as has been evidenced by two excellent barrier trial performances.
Both times he has been ridden by Whyte, who looks a rider of some aplomb, and both times he has put in the trial of the session.
The most recent of these was on last Tuesday when Whyte was at pains to restrain Dolphin and ease him towards the rear of his field.
Dolphin was hard on the steel throughout and came home strongly, looking in tip-top shape for this afternoon's contest.
He may have most to fear from the Patrick Biancone-trained Charming Guest who improved with virtually every run after joining the master French handler last season.
Charming Guest's work has been good, especially a jump out on Thursday morning when he appeared to show a fair bit more zip than his useful stablemate, Royal King Prawn.
Bounty has also worked well for this event. He is known as a dirt specialist but he has won on the sandmesh and could add value to the tierce. And keep a close eye on Braveheart who is a lovely individual. He has improved with each piece of work but may just need this to put him right.
Fireball, bred to come into his own over a bit of ground, should find the mile to his liking in the third.
This is the first time he has been ridden by a senior jockey as he had claimers on board for all five of his outings as a griffin. His work suggests he can win this Class Four event before going on to bigger and better things over farther.
Esteemed will be very hard to beat in the second event for which he is sure to be all the rage.
He won this race last season to give David Hayes his first winner as a Hong Kong-based trainer and Hayes has set him to take prevail again.
However, the value in the race could reside in American Star who has slipped down the ratings.