Debonair to show his class
Trainer David Hill and jockey Philip Robinson can chalk up their first winner of the season with flying Debonair in the sixth event on tonight's Happy Valley card.
Debonair has been in work for some time and has impressed in two barrier trials, including a recent effort where he simply blazed through on the Sha Tin all-weather surface to score as he pleased.
Debonair is one of a growing number of horses in Class One who can benefit from the overlapping system and race in Class Two. Over 1,000 metres at the city track, the gelding looks too good.
On top of his obvious sprinting ability and being in a suitable grade, Debonair also drew ideally in barrier two and it should be a case of 'catch me if you can'. Judging by Debonair's overall sprinting performances, he won't be caught.
Trainer Hill said: 'Most of my horses have been running well so far this season and I think the only one that didn't was Top-Worth.
'I have taken plenty of time with Debonair but the new all-weather surface has been a great help. He does not have the soundest legs and that was always a problem in the past on the equitrack.
'This surface is much kinder and we have been able to trial him and then work him again on a regular basis.
'He's getting older, of course, but he has been primed for this and I will be disappointed if he does not run really well.' Debonair has shown some good horses a clean pair of heels round the Valley in the past and, from this good draw and as long as he breaks cleanly for Robinson, it is difficult to see him being caught.
Debonair had only four runs last season, the best of them being over the longer sprint at the Valley when he finished third to Regal Ridge. But the gelding seemed not to be at his previous best in any of those runs.
His excellent trackform and rejuvenated appearances in barrier trials suggests that Debonair is right back on track now and this short sprint at the Valley should have him back on the winning trail. In his griffin year he was considered a potential sprint champion.
There is unlikely to be any real value about Debonair in the win pool, even though there is a full field of 14 runners and picking the quinella and tierce is not exactly an easy task.
So there could be value here despite the presence of a hot favourite - as, indeed, we saw on Saturday night at Sha Tin.
Fireball went off at even money and looked the bet of the night over 1,900 metres, but thanks to New Asia Sage (99-1) finishing second and Rocket Green (20-1) taking third place there was huge value in the quinella and tierce dividends. It can happen.
Tiger's Spirit usually runs well over this short trip and trainer David Oughton has booked Eric Legrix for the ride.
There can still be few faster horses out of the gate than Tiger's Spirit but the veteran sprinter has drawn unfavourably in barrier nine and that must surely take a toll on his chances.
However, he is so quickly away he could cross over and be upsides Debonair or just off him.
But the Hill-trained sprinter has never shown any inkling to back away from a battle and he will run on solidly in the straight.
Win Theatre is another obvious speedster in the race who has been working well and trainer John Moore can expect a very forward performance from the galloper. He has booked the in-form Douglas Whyte and they could be thereabouts.
Others working well include Flying High and Fukien Boy but it could well be that one coming from off a very sharp pace will run the quinella.
Although weight is of relative importance over 1,000 metres, trainer Wong Tang-ping has opted for female claimer Win Chung Lai-fong to ride Top Performance.
This consistent campaigner is probably better off over slightly longer than the minimum trip and against these speedsters would have to be considered midfield material in the early and middle stages.
But he can come home very strongly and it is a pertinent fact that horses generally run along well for Chung - as evidenced afresh by Miss Piggy, another Wong-trained galloper, on Saturday night.