Titanic battle on cards

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 12 January, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 12 January, 1997, 12:00am

Hong Kong's oldest sponsored race, the San Miguel Silver Tankard, has produced some stirring contests down the years and today's Sha Tin renewal should see a superb battle between Adjareli and China Cruise.

Yes, there are 11 other runners in the prized sponsored race but most attention will be focused on this duo - the reformed, exciting Adjareli and the comeback star, China Cruise.

The pair are the stellar attractions in the Class One, 1,600-metre race with solid back-up provided by seemingly ageless Helene Star, gutsy front-runner Bogie's Pride and Master Eagle, trained like Adjareli, by John Moore.

Adjareli had looked a high-priced failure until his last start when, under the magic hands of Mick Kinane, he suddenly exploded on to the Hong Kong racing scene with a performance that reminded internationally inclined racegoers that the horse had run second to Spectrum in the Irish 2,000 Guineas.

Of course, Adjareli had slipped down the ratings and handicap on the strength of many forgettable performances since joining Moore from The Curragh stable of John Oxx.

But it was noticeable before his first breakthrough win that he had been getting increasingly closer in his races and that his overall work showed a lot more zest and will than had previously been the case.

Moore then added the vital Kinane ingredient and Adjareli settled like a contented baby in the middle of the field. The horse looked totally relaxed and was obviously moving well.

When Kinane asked him for his race-winning effort in the final 200 metres it wasn't long in coming. Adjareli swooped like a starving crow on a scrap of meat and had the race wrapped up in strides.

'It was as good as it looked. The horse has just taken a long time to come to himself but it was the Adjareli they expected when they bought him that we saw today,' said a satisfied Kinane.

'He was enjoying it and was very relaxed. I never had any doubts that he would answer up when I asked him and he won it like a good horse should,' added the 10-time Irish champion.

The win impressed senior handicapper Martyn Stewart, as it had to, and Adjareli's rating was quickly re-assessed upwards to the tune of 10 points. He went up considerably quicker than he came down but the fluency of the win triggered memories of his Classic efforts back in Ireland.

And if Adjareli decides on a repeat performance today it will take a very good horse to stop him.

But that horse could well be the rejuvenated China Cruise whose hopes of major glory in top class events a season and a half ago looked decidedly bleak.

Trainer Lawrie Fownes, who had looked after the seven-year-old with infinite care since his purchase in New Zealand, was figuratively wringing his hands as one of his undisputed stable stars had to undergo a wind operation.

Thoroughbreds are such notably delicate creatures that there is no guarantee they will return to active duty after undergoing a fairly major operation. Usually, in fact, they go the other way.

But China Cruise, after a length of time when grave doubts were expressed, bounced back with a vengeance and is now a top quality performer who will be seen to real advantage today.

He has not been seen since going under narrowly to the excellent Coach Maniac on International Races Day. He was given a gem of a ride by Frankie Dettori on the day over 1,800 metres but a huge weight swing to Coach Maniac was a major factor in defeat.

China Cruise has been absolutely flying in his work recently, suggesting that he is going to give Adjareli a lot to do today to actually win.

Helene Star is also in tip-top form and does relish this trip, too. His run two starts back when a narrow second to stablemate Michael's Choice, who has franked that form, was quite excellent. In fact, Helene Star might well have beaten his more fancied stablemate had he not rolled off at the home turn.

Master Eagle should run an honest race and it will be interesting to see how debutant Victory Star runs.