Record effort dulled by an average rating
TONY HARBIDGE (Topspeed)
As if scripted, the final running of the Governor's Cup at Happy Valley last Wednesday was won in the record-equalling time of 57.9 seconds for 1,000-metre trip.
Grassland Star signed the race off with and outstanding performance. Or did he? There are three explanations for a horse scoring in course record time.
The first, and easiest explanation for most pundits to accept despite being the least common reason, is simply that it was an outstanding performance. Second, they were racing on an ultra-slick surface. Third, the original record time was poor to start with. So, which category does Grassland Star's effort fit into? A Topspeed rating of 64 immediately dispels any thoughts of last week's win conforming to the outstanding group. That level rating represents a good, solid performance but nothing Grassland Star hadn't done before. He clocked a 65 speed figure when scoring over Sha Tin's straight 1,000 metres on his penultimate start and boasts a career-high time rating of 83. Indeed, the shape of the race also failed to promote the notion of an exceptional performance.
The winner only got the better of Dragon's Pal (58) by a neck and, although probably reflecting more on the ridiculous practice of returning times to just a tenth of a second, the Eric Saint-Martin-ridden galloper has been credited with the same 57.9-second time. A feature of racing at Happy Valley this season has been the massive track biases and front-runners enjoy a big advantage.
Grassland Star and Dragon's Pal were one-two throughout. With the idea of an outstanding performance out of the way, what about the going? The official going reports can be the biggest works of fiction in Hong Kong but, although the time suggests last Wednesday's meeting possibly started marginally on the fast side of good, the season-long trend of deteriorating ground at Happy Valley was again in effect.
By the time the Governor's Cup came around, my best estimate is that the sandmesh surface was riding equivalent to the easy side of good, and it's on that basis the Topspeed calculations were made. So, by process of elimination, Classabove, Debonair and now Grassland Star own a relatively poor course record. The two winners to note from this meeting are Excel Treasure and Perfection. The first named landed the Youde Handicap over 1,800 metres.
This may have been only a lowly Class Five contest, but this one has really come to himself since joining outstanding first-season trainer Tony Cruz and a relatively useful Topspeed of 37 confirms that this was no fluke.
Perfection is another that should be winning again. Despite losing several lengths at the first bend, the Ivan Allan-trained sprinter still came home a dominating winner with a useful 63 time rating, his best time performance of his career.
A hat-trick of wins is definitely on the cards.