Indigenous shows off his superiority
TONY HARBIDGE (Topspeed)
No prizes for guessing who put up the best time performance from the two New Year meetings at Sha Tin and Happy Valley.
Under a perfect ride from champion Basil Marcus, Indigenous landed the odds in the Centenary Vase at Sha Tin on Friday and his winning time of two minutes and 15.9 seconds equates to another classy Topspeed rating of 89.
It was a quality race contested by quality animals producing a quality time.
Sure, it wasn't outstanding on the clock and Indigenous has better figures - he earned speed ratings of 93, 95 and 90 on his last three outings - but it was still at an acceptable level for a domestic Group Three contest and the pattern of the race added to our knowledge of the winner.
Splits of 15.1, 23.7, 25.2 and 24.9 seconds hardly represent a hectic pace. Even so, that they could skip home in final sectionals of 23.6 and 23.4 to earn such a solid overall time figure speaks volumes for Indigenous.
The Ivan Allan-trained galloper clearly possesses a quality turn of foot - a rare commodity in the staying ranks.
True, runner-up Mazal (77) loves to run home off a fast pace and didn't get the shape of race he relishes, while Privilege (79) also wasn't treated to the ideal ride for his nature.
But Indigenous has shown he possesses everything required in a champion, the tactical speed to allow his pilot to position him in a race and the turn of foot.
Stable companion and last year's Horse of the Year Privilege has always lacked the change of gear.
Of course in the past he has been able to gallop the sting out of any domestic competition and he may have lost a little of his edge, but it has still surprised that he has been ridden with so much more restraint this term.
Yes, he cut out the running on Friday and Felix Coetzee gave him a textbook front-running ride. Steadying the pace from the front and picking it up to try and steal a march inside the final 1,200 metres.
But, Privilege simply isn't a textbook front-runner.
Allan has his string in top form and he and Marcus already teamed up to land the 1,800-metre Kung Hi Handicap with Quick Speed.
If Indigenous was the best time overall, stable companion Quick Speed accounted for the top time performance relative to class. Clocking 1:50.3 for the 1,800-metre trip in this Class Four heat, this improving young horse earned a Topspeed rating of 64.