Johan Cruyff gets the nod
Superb trackworker Johan Cruyff can begin his campaign under new management today by winning the Sha Tin Trophy.
The longer term plans for Johan Cruyff, now with champion trainer David Hayes, centre around the Hong Kong Cup in December but so good have been his efforts in recent weeks that it is hard to go past him today.
As it is meant to be, the Sha Tin Trophy is a useful race to begin horses like this fellow who are seeking international glory two months later.
Johan Cruyff is not fully wound up but possesses the innate ability to see his rivals off. He is going to come on from this race in leaps and bounds.
The Irish Derby placegetter was superbly handled by now suspended Patrick Biancone, winning his prime local target in the Derby and also running a mighty race for second in last year's International Cup.
But the enforced switch to Hayes may well bear out the old proverb that a change is as good as a rest.
The horse, who should really have no significant improvement left in him at this stage, appears to have revelled in his work on the track.
The ride goes to Freddie Sanchez with stable jockey Basil Marcus taking out Hunting Lad who is also certain to run well over today's 1,600-metre trip.
It is a wise move putting Sanchez up as he knows the horse well even though it would seem to indicate that Hunting Lad is the stable elect.
Hunting Lad ran a fair race behind Danzighill last start but it was over 1,400 metres and he is going to be much better off over this distance.
He, too, has also gone well in the mornings and will be thereabouts.
Eric Saint-Martin partners Oriental Express and the former Horse of the Year, again on the score of class, cannot be ruled out although, in his case, there is little doubt that he will need this race.
Age is the great enemy and it is unlikely that Oriental Express is quite the force he once was.
Former champion trainer Ivan Allan also starts last year's shock Derby winner Holy Grail with Derby-winning jockey David Harrison again aboard. He was not suited by the 1,400 metres of his last start when never a threat behind Danzighill.
But he was definitely in need of the run and he, too, must come into the reckoning on the pick of his form.
Danzighill and Man Of Honour, first and second last time, step up to this distance and may find it harder.
It is always tricky backing horses who are running out of the handicap and that mitigates against seven of those engaged, so it is probably best to stick to the top end of the list.
Desert Fox, who finished third in bad ground in the Irish Derby, has been something of a disappointment since his arrival.
He does need conditions to suit and it is unlikely that he is going to get them.
It is not so much the ground, as the distance. Desert Fox needs longer than a mile.
Trainer John Moore has done his best to bring Mighty Lantern into the handicap picture by engaging maximum claimer Philip C. T. Cheng and the horse did beat Willie Way emphatically last time.
This does represent a big step up in class but he is a horse in form and if you were looking for a bit of value at the bottom end, then this would be the one.
Benji was third in the Kwangtung Cup and runs for the first time for David Oughton since his switch back to the Englishman from Biancone.
But it is not likely to mean a lot as Benji's best hope these days may be on the dirt or in the wet.