Whyte has edge on Drifting Away
Title-chasing Douglas Whyte can start the New Year as he finished the old one by riding winners with stayer Drifting Away looking ideal material to help him in his pursuit of the championship.
Drifting Away is well placed in this afternoon's eighth event to reverse placings with topweight and likely favourite, Success Partners, on their run at Happy Valley over 2,200 metres on November 4.
Ridden then as he is today by champion jockey Basil Marcus, Success Partners prevailed by a neck over Drifting Away in a tense battle to the line which, at one stage, the runner-up looked like winning.
It was Drifting Away's first run of the season and it was a fairly remarkable effort to go so close over such a testing trip.
That point was not lost on Whyte who said yesterday: 'Before his first run at the Valley we were hopeful he would run well but it was expecting a bit even though Tony [Cruz] had put plenty of work into him.
'I think it was almost a bonus that he did run so well and we are now a couple of pounds better off against Success Partners which will be a major help,' added Whyte.
Drifting Away was basically out of his depth last time out in the St Andrew's Challenge Quaich, which was a terms race and the final prep race for the International Vase.
'This is going to be much easier for him. It was very tough at set weights last time,' said Whyte.
With half the field racing out of the handicap, the chances are clearly at the top and Drifting Away, with the edge over Success Partners in relative fitness plus a slight weight pull, is the one to beat.
Sterling Town looks a bigger danger than Success Partners. He was noted coming home well in a 1,800-metre event on International Races Day when ridden by Cash Asmussen.
The extra 2,000 metres is bang in his favour and Sterling Town has not been fitter this season.
Trainer Bruce Hutchison will not be sorry to see the back of 1997 and he can definitely start the New Year on an upbeat note with Outstanding Lad.
Odds are not likely to be anything fancy but it is difficult to see this impressive youngster getting turned over in the fifth event.
At the last meeting before the break, Outstanding Lad finished a game second to City Warrior. That translates into very good form and there was six lengths back to Action Time in that event - underlining just how strong the form is.
The 1,400-metre trip should not pose any problems and Outstanding Lad should be a welcome winner for Hutchison and Steven King.