Sweetheart on a promise

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 February, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 February, 1998, 12:00am

Smart performer Sweetheart probably broke a few punters' hearts when he finished second on his recent Hong Kong debut but he can royally atone in today's featured Craigengower Cricket Club Challenge Cup at Sha Tin.

Trainer Derek Cruz, who has been enjoying a memorable season, patiently prepared his astute New Zealand purchase for a first-up crack at the big Chinese New Year meeting but had to settle for second best.

Sweetheart, who had caught the eye time and again during trackwork in the weeks leading up to his debut, found The Best Winner a half length too good on the day.

Although The Best Winner failed on the dirt at Sha Tin on Wednesday night that should certainly not be held against him and there is little doubt that the Irish import is a most useful horse and Bruce Hutchison will be getting a few more wins out of him.

He also had the benefit of local racing experience which Sweetheart did not but, above all, the distance was in favour of the winner.

That's not to say that Sweetheart would not get 1,400 metres, but it was a stiffish test first-up, particularly as his New Zealand form - and it is useful - was all over 1,200 metres.

But that's the way they fall and trainer Cruz would surely have preferred a 1,200-metre event for Sweetheart's debut and then a progression to 1,400 metres rather than the other way around.

However, a win at the New Year meeting would have been auspicious.

His debut run was on January 30 so Sweetheart has had some three weeks to get over that effort and Cruz has kept ticking over.

Champion jockey Basil Marcus was aboard for his debut but is required for David Hayes' Happy Boy in this event which means a very good pick-up ride for lightweight ace Brett Doyle.

The English rider has done nothing wrong all season and supporters of Sweetheart will be happy to have him on board. It is also worth noting with the present unsettled weather about that a rain-affected track would hold no fears for Sweetheart.

He won on yielding ground over 1,200 metres at Avondale and in heavy ground over this trip at his last New Zealand start he finished fourth of 10 in a Listed race at the grade one track of Ellerslie. He was beaten by three and a half lengths.

It does add up to Sweetheart in a race where there do not appear to be any hidden threats. Most of the form, with the exception of improving Cosmo One and debutant Maalesh, is exposed.

Trainer John Moore is enduring a nightmare run at present. The Australian has been so influential in Hong Kong racing for so long that it is amazing to see him go so long without a winner. But it happens to the best of them.

He will undoubtedly see it out but there is an obvious reluctance to become heavily involved when things are not going well. But topweight Happy Monies, ideally drawn next to the rails, looks a clear threat to Sweetheart on his best form.

Leading jockey Douglas Whyte rides and Happy Monies seems sure to go well judged on his past two runs which followed on from an earlier win.

Happy Boy will not be helped by the draw of 12 but he finished a creditable third to Optic General - re-opposing here - at Happy Valley last time. He will be better suited by Sha Tin and is blinkered for the first time.

Cosmo One does look to have his hoof on the till judging by his past two runs and should be kept safe while Straight Way is nothing if not blindingly honest.

Optic General cannot be ignored after his last-start effort but Perfection seems to have lost it somewhat and Corollary is clearly up to his mark now.

Pinch The Devil also seems to be struggling somewhat these days and Great Intent would have it to do.

That leaves Speed Win who arrived with a good reputation and ran extremely well early on. His form has been mixed but, in a race that may lack some depth, it could pay to keep him safe.