Return of the local hero

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 06 November, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 06 November, 1999, 12:00am

The eagerly awaited reappearance of horse of the year Indigenous is likely to make the rest of the cast in the National Panasonic Cup look like bit players.

It's not that Indigenous is likely to win this short sprint down the 1,000-metre course on flint-like ground, but racegoers will get their first chance in six months to see a horse who has carried the flag internationally for Hong Kong and will do so again.

The Ivan Allan-trained stable star will get a rousing reception from the crowd on the way to the start but cheers for the winner on his return should be reserved for short course specialist, Best Of The Best.

Indigenous, after an operation for chipped knees, is coming back to the fray ring-rusty and owner Pang Yuen-hing, plus trainer Allan, will be hoping he comes through this early test in good shape - and ready for races that really matter in the next month.

A decision on whether Indigenous competes in the Group One Japan Cup will be made shortly but the odds would seem to favour him aiming solidly for the $10 million Hong Kong Cup on December 12 which is the final leg of the Emirates World Series Racing Championship.

Best Of The Best has only one aim: the inaugural running of the $7 million Hong Kong Sprint, so this is his prime lead-up event, along with almost three-quarters of this full field of 14.

With the remedial work done to the straight course in the summer, track bias appears to have been removed and it is riding very fast.

A record that had stood for 19 years disappeared from the record book three weeks ago so this is going to be a real test of speed.

How many horses may end jarred up is another matter, of course, but the speed machines will prevail on the day.

Best Of The Best has always been something of a nap down the straight course since his debut as a griffin and not a lot has changed since. He is at his best on this track.

An excursion to Happy Valley was fruitless last season and he was not at his peak when he contested the opening race of the present campaign with regular rider Eric Legrix aboard.

The popular French jockey is inactive due to suspension and the ride goes to David Harrison who has come in for a handy mount.

Best Of The Best has worked encouragingly and trainer Wong Tang-ping has him ready for this. Although there are other good short course sprinters involved, they don't have the robust claims of Best Of The Best.

Fairy King Prawn is a first class horse but may no longer be at his best over this trip while Bumper Storm and Schubert are really better over longer.

And given the prevailing ground conditions, it is difficult to see Oriental Express getting a real crack at them in the final 50 metres.

He has pulled off shocks before but those were earlier days and different conditions.

Of the rest, Triple Expresso, who has worked well, and apprentice-ridden Aggressive Dragon have claims.