Stay true to dirt formula for TT pot
It doesn't matter what the surface is, the dreaded dirt or the sandmesh, a Triple Trio jackpot is enough to warm the cockles of any punter's heart and there is an enticing $9.5 million up for grabs at Sha Tin tomorrow night.
The dirt rules are pretty well known. Follow the specialists and the brilliant trackworkers. Time and time again they come out on top and, from a TT perspective, are usually all around the placings.
The TT opens with race three, a Class Five sprint over 1,150 metres for which the likes of Flowers Comrade, Cruise Cannon and Winning Express jump off the page as three to take against the field.
Flowers Comrade has consistent sprint form, is fast, represents trainer Wong Tang-ping, whose recent dirt record has been outstanding, and will be ridden by Douglas Whyte.
The extreme outside barrier is not too much of a concern as Flowers Comrade has far more natural speed than those drawn on his immediate inside and, anyway, the inside is probably a massive disadvantage on the dirt.
Cruise Cannon has always worked like a Class Two horse, never mind a Class Five performer, but he has consistently failed to hit the line on the grass. He has run well on the dirt before and now he's down to Class Five and working with all his usual zip, he has his best chance of winning.
Winning Express is another absolutely brilliant worker. There's hardly a horse in trainer Andy Leung's yard that can live with him in the mornings.
He goes well on the dirt and now that Leung's horses have run into such tremendous form he is a must TT inclusion, especially as he has that man Brett Doyle on top.
Doyle's results speak for themselves and there's no fluke about them. It's not just a question of balance, or hands, or power in a finish (actually his horses tend to wander around in a finish), he's always in the right place, seems to suss out the subtleties of any track bias and has the confidence to sit and wait when required.
Deuce Of Hearts had a very tough run at the Valley last time and has to be included on potential alone in the fourth, the middle pin to the TT, having previously run such a promising race when second to Billion Win.
The track specialist are Walk Big and William's Tact.
King Of Unicorn scored a shock dirt win last time and has to be respected on that basis alone. He's likely to be up there in the van and this is where another top young English rider, Jason Weaver, excels.
Honey Wind looks an ideal dirt type in the sixth. He's an out-and-out galloper and should strip much fitter for a recent outing on grass where he had no luck at all in running and was noted charging to the line.
It is really bad luck for British champion Kieren Fallon that he is unable to do the 113 pounds and Fallon must be one of the most under-used jockeys ever to come here.
Allotting Fallon the month of January was also an error on the licensing committee's part. Due to Lunar New Year it allows Fallon just six meetings to establish himself at a time when every other rider has his feet well and truly under the table and there's hardly a decent spare ride to be found.
Giant Fight loves the dirt and comes here in good form, fresh from a strong win on the grass. Learned Friend can be expected to improve as he had major excuses last time while Premiership could go much better.
He's one of those brilliant workers and he's been looking much more relaxed in the mornings now that the blinkers have been discarded.