Special win nothing to get excited about
TONY HARBIDGE (Topspeed)
Overall, last Saturday's meeting at Sha Tin looked the best of the season so far. Naturally, the highest bare time performance came in the Class One, 1,400-metre National Panasonic Cup.
As impressive as Special's two-length victory over Indigenous was, a Topspeed rating of 69 ranked only joint-top for winners on the day.
Sure, the David Hayes-trained galloper is almost certainly better than the bare rating suggests, but he already had a time rating of 70 to his name and in truth his time performance at the weekend offered no new evidence as to Special's true ability.
Indeed, at the weights, it was runner-up Indigenous that earned the highest rating of the afternoon with a time figure of 83. Even that is someway below his best of 94 and the third, Victory Mount, (57 compared to a best of 72) along with fourth home Fastest Star (69 compared to 98) confirm the relatively ordinary nature of the race in terms of the clock.
There were several far more interesting races relative to class - and therefore more interesting for betting purposes - and top of the list with an eye to the future has to be the opening Class Four Matsushita Handicap.
Grand Start stepped up on his previous efforts to land the 1,200-metre contest with a solid 49 Topspeed rating and can be expected to progress further to win more races. However, it is the newcomers that warrant greater attention, with Full Metal Jacket (44) stamping himself a sure future.
Experience counts for a lot in this game and although the Tony Cruz-trained debutant had been working brilliantly it's a big step to reproduce training-track form in a race. Full Metal Jacket went a long way to doing just that.
His time performance at the weekend by itself would be good enough to win an ordinary race in the same grade, but Full Metal Jacket is sure to have benefited considerably for the experience and that should make him a particularly exciting betting prospect next time.
Lovey Dovey (39) had only had the single griffin run last season and left that run well behind in finishing third on Saturday and will be winning a race before long, as should the speedy Tim's Dragon (41), although physically he looks weaker and it will be interesting to see how this initial race affects him.
Medic Pearl is another young horse that has plenty of scope to win more races. Again he was raced just once as a griffin last season, showing plenty of promise to clock 36 when fourth on his debut, and displayed the benefit of his initial start this term by landing the third race, the 1,600-metre, Class Three Panasonic Gaoo Handicap.
Tony Cruz has already shown he knows exactly how to nurture these promising young horses and a Topspeed rating of 69 confirms that he is a horse to keep on the right side of.
Markgraf has really taken to the headgear and made it two from two for the season when defying topweight to beat Charlie's Angel in the Class Five, 1,400-metre National Linear Shaver Handicap.
This much-improved galloper had recorded a time figure of 41 on his reappearance and a rating of 50 on Saturday more than confirms that it wasn't just a one off for the first time visor.
So often the headgear works first time, only for the horse to revert to type in subsequent runs.