Fortune favours the fresh

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 March, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 March, 1997, 12:00am

Progressive Fortune Maker can handle a change of distance and track to capture the featured Manawatu Racing Club Challenge Trophy at Happy Valley tonight. Fortune Maker is one of the best prospects Derek Cruz has had in his stable for some time and he is well up to winning his way into the top grade. The programming in Hong Kong frequently has trainers tearing their hair out, but it has fallen kindly on this occasion for the hard-working Cruz who gave Fortune Maker a long spell after two initial runs in the early part of the present season. His decision to give the New Zealand galloper a break was fully justified when he came back to score a decisive win at Sha Tin on March 8, easily accounting for a good field over 1,400 metres.

Fortune Maker had worked most pleasingly leading up to that Classes One and Two event and with champion jockey Basil Marcus astride ultimately gave nothing else in the 11-runner field a chance, coasting up by a length and a half from Sea Jade. Fortune Maker has impressed since the early days of the present season and his last-start victory merely showed that most observers had got it right. Given the way in which Fortune Maker was clearing away close home, the step up in distance to 1,650 metres does look tailor-made and Cruz can be thankful that this race has fallen when it has.

The break between runs is perfect, so too is the distance and that leaves only Happy Valley to negotiate. But Fortune Maker looks an athletic type and they are more likely to be suited to Happy Valley with the major plus factor, of course, being Marcus who is not known as the 'King of the Valley' for nothing. Fortune Maker has gone well for Cruz since his last win and there are no reservations on the score of his trackwork and fitness.

In fact, the only reservation is the change of racing scenery to the city track. For this reason alone, the equally progressive Pinky Long Legs must rank as the logical threat to the selection. Last time out Pinky Long Legs showed that he had made the necessary progression from a hard-fought previous win to beat Plenty Success at the city track.

It was a solid victory and Pinky Long Legs, under the astute care of John Moore, does not have much to find on that run to be a massive threat. To an extent the form was not franked by Plenty Success at the weekend as he finished fifth to Sir Galway, having been given every chance. While Fortune Maker is a confident selection, this could turn out to be an exciting race as Aspiration and En Rapport must both have claims.

The latter is beginning to look a bit of an unlucky horse in that he always seems to find one just too good on the day - or the breaks have not come his way. There is no doubt that he is up to winning a race in this grade, but he creeps up the ratings by virtue of his honesty and that never makes the task of winning any easier. He remains a quinella and tierce chance. Aspiration had no room at a crucial stage of his last race and it is worth remembering that he did win a Happy Valley trial recently and did it well, coming strongly between horses to score. He is a good-looking type and his fighting fourth to Leprechaun last time has to be respected. He has gone well in work since. Pilot Win starts for the first time for trainer-of-the-moment Tony Cruz and will have Alan Munro on board. Pilot Win is another who appreciates the turns and gradients of the city track and on his best form is not without claims.

Bottomweight Miss Piggy was responsible for another top run last time, but his best form has generally been at Sha Tin and over longer than tonight's trip.

He is also delicately poised above the drop into Class Three which would make things definitely easier for the veteran galloper. It would be a surprise if anything from the remainder of this field came through to win with relative newcomer Craig's Pride still looking on the big side and Take Off out of form.