Catch that Winning Fever
Trainer David Hill can add another piece of silverware to the sideboard when his promising Winning Fever tackles the Japan Racing Association Trophy (JRA) at Sha Tin today.
With the main National Panasonic Cup having fallen away to seven runners, the 13-runner JRA Trophy will provide much keener betting interest and promises to be a hotly contested affair with the seasonal reappearance of the exciting Cheers Win.
A number of observers have also been anticipating the return of Winning Fever who overcame difficulties to finish third to Faster Mount on his seasonal debut at Happy Valley midway through last month.
Winning Fever did not have a trouble-free run and his eventual effort in finishing third was noteworthy. The form was then boosted considerably when Faster Mount came out in better company and won again.
On his own account, Winning Fever returned to Happy Valley for a recent trial and could not have been more impressive, showing that he had come on considerably from his first-up run.
Hill, a patient trainer, ran Winning Fever only twice in his first season, thus allowing the horse to acclimatise, and he has clearly benefited from this understanding approach.
Winning Fever's work has also been of a high quality and connections could have had no complaints when the computer produced barrier No 2 at declarations which is ideal for this Classes One and Two, 1,200-metre event.
In effect, just about everything seems to have fallen right for Winning Fever, but it would be unwise to take short odds about the Australian import, who is a confident each-way selection in a strong field.
Towards the top of the handicap, champion trainer David Hayes' Cheers Win stands out as a horse of unquestioned ability who is also a great fighter.
He has been carefully prepared for his first run of the season and his form is faultless.
Cheers Win posted three successive wins last season, claiming the scalps of a number of good juvenile performers including that of Man Of Honour at Happy Valley in open company in June.
Again, Man Of Honour has stood that form up with success this season.
Cheers Win also beat Faster Mount in griffin company in April, finishing almost seven lengths ahead of the then 21-1 chance in a similar Sha Tin longer sprint.
Cheers Win was in receipt of nine pounds from Faster Mount on that occasion.
When beaten half that margin last month, Winning Fever was giving Faster Mount eight pounds, so on a line through that horse, Hill's trophy hope has the edge. However, juvenile form must be assessed when bearing in mind that younger horses will improve to varying degrees over the summer break. So much depends on acclimatisation that current form is generally a more reliable guide.
But there is no question that Cheers Win will not do anything other than run well. He has the attributes necessary and his work has been top notch.
Another big improver from last year is bottomweight Marquee Universal and he must be included in quinella and tierce selections.
He has had one run to date, a fast-finishing second to quality performer Fairy King Prawn, and that could be improved upon today. Horses from the David Oughton stable have been running particularly well and he has struck up a solid association with jockey Alan Munro.
As racing is on the premier A Course, the barrier draw of 10 in the field of 13 rather dictates that Munro should angle across to get cover.
Consistent Beas Glory is one to consider for the tierce and he will appreciate both the trip and the track.
John Moore introduces English sprinter Never Say Never who posted two moderate wins at Bath and Chester before being clearly out of his depth in a Listed Race at York at the big Ebor meeting there over a year ago.
A watching brief on this fellow is probably best while Big Mac is something of an imponderable but is better opposed.
Topweight Grandstand would be in the thick of this on his best form but indications are that he will be better for the run while William's Surpass, to be ridden by claimer Peter Y. S. Wong, should be overshadowed by stablemate Cheers Win.