Going inflates solid-looking winning times
TONY HARBIDGE (Topspeed)
There were no great fireworks in the first meeting at Sha Tin, with virtually all nine races on the evening card producing solid but not spectacular winning times.
Sure, there were some fast bare times and proceedings certainly got off to a lively start with Splendid Timing living up to his name by setting a new Class Five, 1,200-metre record in the opening Shouson Hill Handicap. His time of one minute, 10.4 seconds shaved 0.4 seconds off the previous best for the grade set by Good Choice a couple of years ago.
However, as is generally the case, the principal reason for the slick raw times was the fast ground, which for once was accurately reflected by the official going report of 'good to firm'.
Throw in a 10-pound claim from useful apprentice Vincent Sit and you have a simple equation for a fast time.
In the event, Splendid Timing has been credited with a Topspeed rating of 44, which certainly rates one of the better time performances on the evening relative to class but is still not outstanding. He has a previous turf best of 46 (51 on dirt).
That said, the form obviously has a very genuine look to it. With Fortune Dancer basically running right up to his best in second, clocking a 34 time figure, and Moon Dancer (40) in third, it is a race that should produce a future winner or two.
The Class Three, 1,200-metre record also fell with Corollary timed at one minute, 10.0 seconds in the Island Handicap and dipping 0.1 seconds below Winning Chance's 1993 best. Again it was a useful rather than spectacular effort, with a speed figure of 65 rated 10 points below his personal best.
Beaten only a short-head in second, a 45 Topspeed rating suggests Manor Lord gave his true running and should continue to do so, but he is more of a quinella or tierce horse than a winner. There wasn't a class record in the Nam Fung Handicap over 1,400 metres but Health First was only 0.3 seconds outside the Class Four best and there was a lot to like about the performances of the front two home.
Douglas Whyte produced another fine riding performance to notch his hat-trick following wins on Running Cue (39) and Corollary. Getting first run on Toy Symphony (50) he ran out a convincing winner with a highly creditable 56 Topspeed rating.
However, the riding performance of the evening goes to Wendyll Woods on Sea Jade in the closing 1,400-metre Hong Kong Country Club Handicap. With a speed rating of 53, Sea Jade returned the slowest time performance of the meeting relative to class and that pays compliment to a skilful ride.