Lane on the right track for success
GEOFF Lane has his team in outstanding form, producing winner after winner over the last month.
Much of the limelight has gone to departing stable rider Declan Murphy as he has got them home in a series of consummate rides.
But you can't win without the horse and Lane is starting to become a real force in the local training ranks - the former golden boy of Australian racing having turned to this side of the game relatively late in his glittering career.
Yesterday, a number of his team indicated that the winning run is far from over. None more so than the bad-legged but useful miler, Golden Dragon.
The New Zealand import has been catching the eye during his morning work-outs and trials for some time, having been given a break since making a winning reappearance.
Because of his legs he can't take much racing and Lane has done a fine job over the last couple of seasons to get two wins from him, each at the first time of asking.
Yesterday, Golden Dragon worked in behind stablemate Nickels King who also gives the impression that there is a race left in him before the season ends in six meetings on June 13.
Nickels King was some eight to 10 lengths ahead going down the back straight, but this gap was closed to a mere couple of lengths as Murphy asked Golden Dragon to pick up off the home bend.
For a few strides it seemed that Golden Dragon was going to gallop over the top of his stablemate before Nickels King kicked back and went past the post some four lengths to the good.
It was a fluent piece from both horses from which potential supporters can take heart.
Lane sent out Endeavour to work on the rain softened grass later in the morning.
Sir Gordon Macwhinnie's former private purchase griffin couldn't get into the 1,200-metre Chairman's Prize won by Red Ruffian last time out and needs further to show his best.
Yesterday, he went well enough to the line indicating that he is coming back to himself after a spell on the sidelines due to the virus.
But there is a race against time for the son of Try My Best and it may be that the end of the season comes just too soon for him to regain peak condition.
Lawrie Fownes has not given up the fight in his battle with dual defending champion John Moore for this season's trainers' title.
Fownes scored with Super Bingo II on Saturday night and yesterday sent his Innovation out with stablemate Sunday Cruise for a solid hitout.
Innovation was always going the better of the pair - as he should given their relative handicap marks.
But Sunday Cruise may be the better betting proposition. He has dropped down to a reasonable mark and is coming back to form after a season plagued with hoof problems.
It is worth remembering that he scored at the end of last season and came to form late on in his first campaign as well.
Fownes also asked his young English import, Speedstar, to work along over his last 400 metres.
This progressive sort responded encouragingly to notch a fluent final quarter of 24.2 seconds.
Forget his last run as he didn't handle the equitrack or Happy Valley at all. His best form in England as a two-year-old was down a straight 1,000 metres. He would be one to keep in mind should he crop up in a dash down the Sha Tin straight over the closing weeks.
Given his poor last run, when he was also far too much a handful for his apprentice rider, hanging out badly round the top bend, he could well start at reasonable odds next time.
With ammunition to fire like Sunday Cruise and Speedstar, it is certainly not possible to rule out Fownes from the trainers' championship.
This will be Gerald Mosse's last season as a Hongkong-based rider for the foreseeable future due to his shock sacking by Patrick Biancone.
So it was somewhat ironic that one of the best pieces of work from one of the French team's horses came from My Home Town.
The confirmed stayer ran a top race in the Champions and Chater Cup to finish third to River Verdon and is being trained specifically for the Queen Mother's Cup a week this weekend for which he remains attractively weighted at 116lb.
For instance, he meets Champions and Chater Cup runner-up Motivation on considerably better terms (16lb) than when just a couple of lengths behind him in the big race and appears to have every chance of reversing the form at the revised weights.
But a word of warning. Taking a literal interpretation of form from set-weight events into handicaps is so often a short cut to the Poor House.
More immediately, Ivan Allan's Active King who will be all the rage for tonight's fifth event, looked raring to go when out for a light piece of work yesterday morning.
He seemed full of beans and really keen to get out there and race. In this kind of spirit, the drop back from 1,200 to 975 metres should not be a problem.
Allan is a master at freshening up his horses and he appears to worked the oracle with Active King.
The morning's solitary trial on the equitrack went to Wong Tang-ping's all-the-way winner, Lucky Champ.
He came back to near his best on the artificial surface last time out but is not so effective on grass and there are only grass meetings left.
There wasn't too much to enthuse over behind Lucky Champ. Derek Cruz trialled three of his team and they all went well enough.
But then Wind Dancer and Group Leader are highly rated and were only working as well as they should.
His stayer, Polygain, who has been off the track for some time probably put in the best effort, plugging on well for fifth with some speedier sorts behind.
TRIAL RESULT 1, LUCKY CHAMP (D. Lee); 2, Wind Dancer (C. K. Chung); 3, Southern Glory (K. L. Tsui). Others (in finishing order): Group Leader, Polygain, Grand Occasion, Northern Fire Ball, Asian Glory, Space Rock, Suraj. Time: 1.01.1 (23.3). Distances: 21/2 lengths, neck. Winner trained by Wong Tang-ping.