Commander calls the shots

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 03 April, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 03 April, 1999, 12:00am

He is going to start at short odds and he is far from being a 'good thing' but Commander Charlie gets the vote in an excellent final event at today's Happy Valley meeting.

The majority of those trying their luck in the nightcap will look no further than Commander Charlie's great run in the $7 million Hong Kong Derby and figure out that back in a Classes One and Two event over 1,650 metres the David Oughton-trained English import just has to win.

A few people have gone broke backing horses who have returned to handicap company after excelling in Group or Classic races.

It just doesn't always work out as it should.

That note of caution sounded, I still go for Commander Charlie because I have always had plenty of time for the horse who has to be one of the unluckier runners in Hong Kong.

He remains a maiden but has now - thanks to his Derby effort - crept up to a 95 rating. His trainer believes he is a 100+ horse and his efforts to get him into the Derby field were fully vindicated.

One of the secrets of his excellent run in the Classic was the step up in distance to 1,800 metres and it is of no help at all that he reverts to 1,650 metres and switches to the Valley today.

He would have been a near certainty at Sha Tin over the Derby trip in handicap company.

In the continuing bid to get him into the Derby field, Oughton started Commander Charlie over this trip at the Valley with Michael Kinane in the saddle six weeks ago.

On that occasion he finished second - yet again - to Winning Lad but circumstances were again against him. Kinane was drawn wide that day and rightly elected to take him over and behind rather than get caught hopelessly wide going out of the first turn.

He brought Commander Charlie through and nothing was going better at the finish - he just could not peg back Valley-loving Winning Lad.

Stable jockey Alan Munro is reunited with Commander Charlie today and faces exactly the same problem as this time the horse has drawn the extreme outside (14).

As racing takes place on the 'A' Course, it is not likely to be lightning fast and suited to front-runners. Munro is unlikely to have many options and may well have to switch over and behind the field - and then pick his way through.

Winning Lad is in today's field, as is another John Moore-trained Valley specialist in Pinky Long Legs, and both will have admirers. On the book, it is going to be difficult for Winning Lad to confirm form with Commander Charlie but those who fancy the former as a quinella proposition are likely to get good odds.

Man Of Honour was seen in front for some time in the Derby and today Douglas Whyte takes over and this trip looks more suitable. As Man Of Honour is an athletic type, the Valley's bends may not pose a major problem and he is undoubtedly an each-way chance.

The David Hayes-trained Championship also found the Derby trip a trifle testing and wound up sixth behind Holy Grail.

This is definitely much more to his liking and from a near perfect draw, the Basil Marcus-ridden gelding is going to be in the picture. He could win this without surprising because he is going to get a much better run in the race than Commander Charlie - and there may not be that much between them.

The handicapper may well have caught up with Many Happy Returns but he does relish this trip at the Valley and he might sneak into a place under Eric Saint-Martin, again from a very good draw.

City Patrol is worth consideration for a minor tierce place on the best of his form and not least his last start, course and distance, when he was narrowly beaten by The Best Winner.

Wasabi is game and another course and distance winner while Fastest Star has form against better than these, but usually at slightly lesser trips. He is not the worst.