The Choice is all yours
A brief flirtation with sprinting behind him, Michael's Choice tackles the distance at which he is best and that should bring success in today's featured ATV Cup at Sha Tin.
Trainer Patrick Biancone took a justified gamble and started Michael's Choice in the second leg of the Sprint Championship, the Centenary Cup, two weeks ago but his stable star never really got warm in the 1,000-metre dash. Within minutes of the race ending in success for Quick Action, Biancone had shelved any future sprinting plans for Michael's Choice. 'You do not know for certain until you try. Now we know that Michael's Choice is not effective in sprints. His best distance now is a mile and there are two races we will go for,' he said.
The dual Arc-winning French trainer always had the ATV Cup in mind for Michael's Choice so his Centenary Cup flop had little overall effect on his preparation. 'I had the ATV Cup planned for him and little has had to change in his lead-up to the race.
Actually, I am very pleased with him, he has done very well coming up to the ATV Cup,' said Biancone yesterday. Michael's Choice has definitely caught the eye in at least two separate trackwork sessions and the highly-rated former griffin does look spot-on for today's feature race.
Michael's Choice has been in the public eye and high in his trainer's estimation since first running and winning as a griffin and the intervening time, barring the Centenary Cup glitch, has been well spent and usually rewarding. The ATV Cup does look tailor-made for Michael's Choice who has the turn of foot and overall class so necessary for top grade events of this type.
As this is a limited handicap, Michael's Choice is also a strong fancy at the weights. While Michael's Choice has given sprinting away his Centenary Cup conqueror, Quick Action, now attempts a middle distance tilt for the first time.
The Irish import won superbly last time, but it must be doubtful if he can run out a really strong mile against the likes of Michael's Choice who certainly gets an obvious chance for revenge. Trainer Lawrie Fownes will have every reason to hope that China Cruise can strike a major blow in the 1,600-metre event following his top effort last time when finishing third to the brilliant Benji and Privilege over 1,900 metres on March 1.
China Cruise ran an excellent race and, Michael's Choice apart, could well be the pick of this field on form. China Cruise looked like running into second spot behind Benji but Privilege, a champion who does not give in, just found enough.
The only real question mark over China Cruise is the fairly sharp reduction in distance in a relatively short period of time. The horse is certainly suited by the mile but whether he has really had the time to get over his exertions over 1,900 metres and be freshened up and ready for this remains to be seen.
There were suggestions that not much would be seen of Smart Kid after the Derby as he has had a busy season, but trainer Alex Wong Siu-tan lets him take his chance in today's feature and there is no real reason why he should not run well.
Apart from the strenuous season he has had, Smart Kid is also coming back in distance for this event having been specifically laid out for the Derby. It could be worth opposing him on these factors although the horse has what it takes to go close to the top.
Sugarloaf is the interesting runner on the strength of his runaway recent success on the dirt for Piere Strydom.
He was obviously suited to that type of racing, but it is worth remembering that a year ago he was spoken about as a summer favourite for the Derby before going amiss. The dirt success clearly suggests he is well on the way back and it would not be the greatest surprise to see him reach the frame. Right Way resumes after a long break and can rarely be ruled out of events like this. He runs well over virtually any reasonable distance and will have some admirers today, particularly as he is well drawn in barrier five. On form neither Optic Fashion nor Derby third Indigenous are entirely out of this, but Michael's Choice just has to be the one to beat.