Cruise Missile is primed to explode
By Racing Editor LAWRENCE WADEY
FOLLOWING the team in form has paid healthy dividends in recent weeks and at Sha Tin this afternoon it could be well worth siding with Geoff Lane and Declan Murphy when Cruise Missile (Nap) steps out for the fifth.
Lane has his team in prime form and Murphy, a former Eclipse Award-winning apprentice in the United States, has been putting in the kind of rides over the last fortnight that are a must for any budding jockey to tape and ponder over.
He was very good on Fortune Ride in the last here a week ago. But he was simply magnificent on Spiritual in the last on the equitrack on Wednesday and comes into today's meeting buoyed with confidence.
Cruise Missile has always worked like a horse with far more ability than Class Four. He has just taken some time to find his feet and learn what racing is all about.
Earlier in the season he was a very big gamble over 1,200 metres in what appeared to be a decidedly weak contest. Murphy rode him like he does when he seems to be on a good thing but Cruise Missile was too inexperienced.
He probably also found the trip on the short side that day, the race eventually falling to big outsider Dong Win.
Since then he has had a break and come back for one 1,200-metre event and one over 1,400 metres.
The first of these was a pipe-opener after his absence, he was drawn badly and raced wide all the way from his outside barrier.
Next time the blinkers were slapped on and it was another just perfect ride from Murphy who popped Cruise Missile to the front, slowed them down, stacked them up, kicked clear from the top of the straight and won the race for his connections.
The blinkers definitely played a big part in Cruise Missile's victory, so did the extra ground.
But above all, this looked to be a case of a horse with good potential just making natural progression as he learned about the requirements of racing as opposed to just working.
This afternoon he is asked to make another progression, from 1,400 metres to the mile. Not only should that be well within his compass. He should actually improve for the move up in distance.
Best Runner, who had never looked better in himself when working on Tuesday morning, could well be the danger. After all, he won very well at Happy Valley last time out.
Lane and Murphy are also likely to come in for plenty of public and professional following in the seventh race where they send out the much-vaunted Irish import, Heavily Armed, for his first run in Hongkong.
He works like a horse who will make it to Class One in time and could easily destroy his opposition this afternoon.
But it is very hard to score at the first time of asking, particularly from the extreme outside barrier in a 12-runner race on the 1,200-metre course where there is only a short run to the first bend.
Heavily Armed's cause is also made difficult by the presence of David Hill's Manor Lord who won in the style of a very talented sprinter on his Hongkong debut.
Since then Manor Lord has done very well in the mornings. He has not been asked to run time. When are Hill's horses ever asked to do that? But he has blossomed physically and is looking a fair bit fitter for the run.
He has explosive speed and a favourable inside draw and will be very hard for Heavily Armed to beat.
In situations like this it is often best to stick with the known form and that is why the best way of betting this race is to take Manor Lord to win, providing he is not too short a price, with Heavily Armed as the main quinella.
Manor Lord would be value at anything over 3-1 in this field which, outside of Heavily Armed, does not appear that competitive.