Sitting pretty with Beauty
By ROBIN PARKE
IRISH-American star Declan Murphy is having a final season to remember in Hongkong and he is intent on landing a few more winners before moving to Macau next season.
Murphy, who has been in Hongkong five years, has long been regarded as a top professional.
He gives nothing away in a race and his immaculate judgement of pace has contributed to some great wins in recent weeks.
And he can keep the ball rolling for himself and retaining trainer Geoff Lane when he partners winning filly Native Beauty in the fifth event on tonight's modest equitrack card.
Murphy partnered the four-year-old Native Beauty last time over 1,800 metres on the Sha Tin turf but she was never in the race and supporters tonight will have to hark back to her winning effort over 2,000 metres on the equitrack surface two starts ago.
On that occasion she was ridden by claimer Danny L.T Leung.
Trainer Lane was delighted with that win and said: ''I didn't really want to buy her when I went to New Zealand but she was one of a couple shown to me by her owner and I went for her.
''I couldn't say that I was overly confident about her doing much here although I am not one of those who has anything against fillies and mares racing here.
''There are divided opinions on that but I reckon if they are good enough, it doesn't matter what gender they are.
''Her breeding is all stamina and I think it is the longer the better for her.'' Tonight Native Beauty tackles 2,100 metres but it is a race that could pan out sweetly for the astute Murphy.
While Native Beauty was sitting just off the pace set by Crescendo when winning previously, Murphy could afford to have her further back than that - particularly as there should be an abundance of pace on this interesting Classes Four and Five affair.
Crescendo is involved again - and weighted to reverse the form, too - while Limelight and Solar Century have both won from in front.
That indicates a bit of a battle for the lead, particularly as Crescendo and Limelight have only been successful on the surface from in front.
Murphy rode a tremendous race on the grey Spiritual last week on the synthetic surface, which he won, and supporters tonight will be looking for a repeat of that sterling effort.
Solar Century is clearly useful in this grade but a big question mark hangs over his ability to run the trip.
His pedigree does not suggest stamina and the manner in which he has raced over shorter trips suggests that 1,800 metres might be as far as he wants to go.
But equitrack can be deceiving and those with shorter race form on the other surfaces can usually be depended to get that little bit further on the dirt.
It is the likely proliferation of pace early on that makes Solar Century even more of a doubt but he has ability and Stanley K.M. Chin brings some much-needed weight off the gelding's back.
Limelight has been out-of-sorts in recent starts on equitrack over a mile but will appreciate the longer trip, particularly if he could get his own way in front.
Basil Marcus rides but there cannot be much confidence in this horse and it might pay to oppose the David Hill-trained galloper.
Class Five galloper Royal Blue will appreciate the trip. He put in a good run last time when narrowly beaten by his stablemate Sky Eagle.
He was not knocked about in the 1,800-metre event and should be ready to run a top race over this trip.
Royal Blue has solid equitrack form and with weight off his back, looks sure to give a good account of himself.
With horses from the John Moore stable running out of their skin at the moment, it could pay to keep an eye on Lucky Smile.
He is another Class Five performer who almost got away with a similar equitrack event early on this season.
His most recent equitrack effort resulted in fourth place behind Native Beauty. He was 10 lengths behind her, so is unlikely to turn the tables.
However, Lucky Smile is now 11 lbs better off and could run into the tierce at reasonable odds.
It is difficult to see any of the others in this field making much of an impression judging by their most recent efforts.
There was a time when Money Maker was a threat in similar races but he has been dreadfully out of form while bottomweight Cool Ice has done nothing in his short and limited career in Hongkong.
Super Prince will have Tony Cruz on top and ran a one-paced fifth behind Native Beauty which gives him plenty to do to reverse the form.