Charlie to lay down law
You don't have to be a genius to work out that Commander Charlie has an outstanding chance of winning the featured Hong Kong University Alumni Association Challenge Cup at Sha Tin tonight.
Trainer David Oughton's English import looks well treated on a rating of 83 and connections will be sorely disappointed if he cannot win a race or two off a higher mark than that in time.
This 1,400-metre Classes One and Two event looks ideal for Commander Charlie's seasonal debut as the distance is his preferred trip at the moment.
Normally, Oughton's horses are given a gradual re-introduction after the summer hiatus and are invariably more keenly viewed as a betting medium after having had a run.
However, there must always be the exception to prove the general rule and Commander Charlie, on his class, looks the one. On what has been seen of him in work, it would not be unrealistic to suggest that Commander Charlie is a stone better horse than when winding up his last campaign with a second to the smart John Moore-trained Astimonti in the Sha Tin Vase over 1,600 metres.
Earlier, Commander Charlie had opened his Hong Kong account with a smooth course and distance success off a rating of 73. Given the quality of the win and his subsequent effort at the back end of the season, he does not seem harshly treated on tonight's mark.
Even though Commander Charlie is certain to show considerable improvement after tonight's run, it is hard to oppose him because he does look to be a horse heading for more substantial heights. Good judges might well have him winning off a mark in excess of 100.
He simply does look like a very good racehorse and jockey Alan Munro can kick off his season, and that of his new retaining trainer, with a trophy success.
There are other interesting claimants involved in the full field of 14 with Irish import High Sky worth considering after his earlier run on opening day where he was not knocked about.
It was a pleasing effort and he can safely improve on his seventh placing behind Inventor. What will be shown this season, one way or the other, is how determined High Sky is when the chips are down.
In the same race, David Hayes' Prince Fortune finished ninth but was stuck in the worst of the ground and could go better tonight without being a real winning proposition.
Trainer Lawrie Fownes has started with a bang and his horses are always worth taking a long hard look at in the early meetings. Sea Jade represents the stable and has been going well enough to suggest a minor placing is a possibility.
Sweetheart came with a sizeable reputation and we may see the best of him this campaign. Trainer Derek Cruz has not been hard on him to date and the horse has responded well in the mornings. He is worth keeping safe in quinella and tierce bets.
Of the rest both Casey's Drum and French Fry are worth some consideration.
The former hit his straps late last season for two successive wins but he now looks a horse better suited to longer than tonight's trip.
He has trialled quite well but the overriding feeling must be that whatever he does tonight, Casey's Drum can improve upon over longer - and a bit later.
French Fry does look a nice type and trainer Geoff Lane will be hoping the gelding is capable of winning a couple of races this season. He may not win tonight but French Fry will run well - and might surprise.