Sharp Shooter on target

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 March, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 29 March, 1997, 12:00am

Speed machine Sharp Shooter should provide trainer David Hill and stable jockey Philip Robinson with a feature race win at tonight's special Happy Valley meeting. Weekend night meetings are a rarity at the city track but are well supported and this is the first of two of them, next week's highlighted by the simulcast of the Grand National from Aintree. It is bread and butter stuff tonight, but Sharp Shooter looks absolutely primed to run them off their feet in the Tung Wah Centenary Cup, particularly as he drew against the rails at declarations on Thursday. 'It was about time he got a decent draw, I am certainly happy about that,' said Hill. Sharp Shooter was beaten a neck, course and distance, 11 days ago when Duet Danseurs just got the better of him but he has a couple of extra points in his favour tonight. One, of course, is the barrier draw and the other is his overall fitness.

Since his last outing, Sharp Shooter has impressed in a Sha Tin dirt trial, running them ragged before easing up in the concluding stages. That was last Tuesday and he looked in peak condition. The present uncertain weather could be another factor in Sharp Shooter's favour - if it decides to rain. 'I have no worries about the Valley track, he goes round there very well. But if it did happen to rain and affect the track then it would be even better,' said Hill. It is hard to underestimate the importance of a rails draw in these short sprints at the Valley if the horse drawing the one barrier does possess real speed.

Sharp Shooter should not have a metre of extra ground to cover - and that is a big plus factor because he doesn't really want it any longer than this - and he is so fast early that nothing should match him out of the gates. Robinson has been having a worthwhile season on his return after a five-year break and this could be another handy winner for him. The biggest danger to Sharp Shooter might well be the nine-year-old Dashing Dragon from the Brian Kan Ping-chee stable who has been in great form this season. Although this is probably just a little sharp for him these days, Dashing Dragon will be thereabouts and could expose any stamina doubts about the favourite in the final, crucial stages.

But there is not a lot in this race when it comes to assessing the form over this important sprint distance where some simply do not look capable of winning at the trip. Citispeed has not been going well enough to merit serious consideration while All Smiles, who does have winning 1,000-metre form here, has been going only moderately and would not be a confident bet on his work. Charming Dragon and Basketball Leader do not make an serious appeal at all and have it all to do. Manor Lord is a stablemate of the selection and likely favourite and seemed to need the run last time when he was resuming after a break.

It is certainly not impossible for Hill to land a stable quinella as Manor Lord is a good type in this company and the trip should be suitable. Jacqwin has fared badly at the barrier draw and will find this a lot harder than his last start when he got up close home to win on the dirt. Fighting Strike is coming back quite sharply in distance and has never been at his most potent over this trip while Midas King will surely find it far too short. King Of Kings has not been seen since falling in a dirt race at Sha Tin and will almost certainly need the outing. He has also drawn badly for a race of this type and can be opposed.

Bottomweight Pakistan Hero is a logical form chance as he won course and distance three starts ago but despite his last-start second on the dirt, he is not a confident suggestion to fill a quinella or tierce spot. It comes down to his work which is not as good as it was previously. He may still run a race, but will also have to work very hard from his extreme outside draw.