Abba to call the tune

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 April, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 April, 1998, 12:00am

Fresh from Saturday night's success on Kowloon Pride for the Kowloon Club Syndicate, Australian ace Paddy Payne can win the Kowloon Cricket Club Cup at Sha Tin tonight where racing takes place on the all-weather surface.

This is the dreariest racing available locally and not that many will be persuaded to make the midweek trek to Sha Tin for a few dashes on the dirt and a meeting which is usually easier to follow on closed circuit television than from the stands.

However, one of racing's most reliable adages - horses for courses - is highly applicable when it comes to assessing winning chances on the all-weather surface.

And Payne's mount for this 1,150-metre dash, the John Moore-trained Abba, has faultless all-weather form with two wins from as many starts. When they really handle the dirt, as this one can, they are the horses to be on.

It is a Class Two event with only eight acceptors and Abba is in Class One but on the strength of his all weather form. He was a handy winner here back on January 14 with Payne up and he can repeat that course and distance win tonight.

On that occasion, Abba was simply too good for another dirt freak in Increase Speed who was three-quarters of a length back in second place under Douglas Whyte.

Abba jumped on that occasion from the extreme outside draw of 11 but it made scant difference as he powered along and was simply much too strong.

There have been two subsequent runs on the turf and he was nowhere in a longer sprint before running a respectable race under Stanley K. M. Chin down the straight 1,000-metre course at Sha Tin.

Abba finished just over four lengths from Feel Legend in a much stronger field than he faces tonight. Apart form not being disgraced in an above-average field, it also showed that Abba is very fit and ready for a tussle.

It is another handy ride for Payne, who has been enjoying a good season, and he said: 'He's higher up in the ratings than when he won earlier in the season but that's to be expected.

'The big factor is the track. He has won quite well on it twice and I was on him when he won on his debut last season. He did that pretty well and it was much the same last time on the dirt.

'I am sure John [Moore] has him in tip-top shape and you just have to hope that his liking for the track - and they don't all perform on it - outweighs the ratings increase,' said Payne.

Ironically, it could again be title-chasing Whyte who chases home Payne. This time the South African is on the Wong Tang-ping galloper Flowers Treasure who has shown a similar aptitude for the surface as Abba.

There is not much between them as Flowers Treasure has absolutely trotted up in the past in a similar event and is a different horse on it.

Trainer Wong has re-fitted the pacifiers and Flowers Treasure looks set to run a mighty race. He is unquestionably the biggest danger to Abba and represents the logical quinella.

In relation to time, Abba has covered the 1,150 metres slightly quicker and, given that the track is racing as true as it has for the past two dirt meets, it could signal the way the race will turn out.

It is tempting to suggest Heading To Win for the tierce as the bottomweight will carry nothing in this contest.

The New Zealand-bred five-year-old will be ridden by female claimer Willie W. Y. Kan and could scamper along from the inside barrier draw of three.

But there is nothing like the all-weather form around Heading To Win that graces the records of both Abba and Flowers Treasure and a minor placing looks most likely.

It is often a case of sheer speed in races like this with the dirt-loving front runners getting too big a break on the field. That could take care of Happy Boy who is not a bad type when right and Bogie's Pride is better over longer - when in the mood.

The other speedy customer is Hong Kong Supreme but he has had many chances and again does not boast significant all-weather form.

Winning Blossom has been unsound, with only a handful of races, while Super Fit is too inconsistent to be useful for betting purposes.