Hunting picks up Cup scent
In what is likely to be a fiercely contested Pearce Memorial Challenge Cup at Sha Tin, it could pay to side with topweight Hunting Lad, whose last run was his best for some time.
That was in the Queen's Silver Jubilee Cup on QEII Cup day and Hunting Lad, under visiting Australian jockey Corey Brown, surged through from the rear of the field for fifth, just three lengths from the impressive Man Of Honour.
It was the six-year-old's best display in months and signalled that he is now lining up in races where he can be effective.
Champion trainer David Hayes, who has seen his stable star win over 1,800 metres in the past, has opted for claimer Howard Y. T. Cheng and clip five pounds off the 137-pound impost. It is a bonus.
Hunting Lad has drawn barrier 10 but does have the length of the back straight at Sha Tin to get across and into a reasonable position which should not be beyond young Cheng, who has delivered the goods for Hayes in the past.
'I have always said that he is a good boy and I like the way he does his best to follow instructions. He doesn't always get it right but more often than not he does and that certainly suits me,' said Hayes.
And the Australian is convinced his last run was no flash in the pan.
'I thought he went a bit too good for it to be just a one-race thing. He had been going well before the Silver Jubilee and in another couple of hundred metres he would have been right on top of the winner. It was a good effort,' said Hayes.
Hayes goes into the 13-runner event double-handed as champion jockey Basil Marcus will be aboard Helene Express, who attempts the 1,800 metres for the first time but has run with great credit over 2,000 metres, most notably two starts back when the South African ace was just two lengths adrift of subsequent Derby winner, Keen Winner, with Housemaster second and Industrialist fourth.
Suffice to say, it was a rattling good run.
Unfortunately, there are seven horses out of the handicap which detracts from its overall quality although one should tread wearily when making that sort of statement after Tajasur thrashed a good field last week over 1,000 metres.
One of those who is given a chance is German import Gonlargo, who was impressive in a recent Happy Valley trial.
He has recently been gelded and it showed as he breezed through for a good win, eclipsing expensive Irish purchase Cupid over 1,650 metres.
'He's going in the right direction at the moment and I would certainly expect a much better performance from him now,' said trainer David Oughton, who had Derby hopes for the grandson of Epsom Derby winner, Slip Anchor, ridden by Steve Cauthen.
Jockey Douglas Whyte, mining a fine seam of winning form at the moment, is also not short of confidence.
'I said at the time I thought it was a good trial. He can only progress and I felt he had it in him that day to do a bit more, so there is no way I can complain. Personally, I think it is a matter of riding your luck when it comes your way,' said the popular South African, who trails compatriot Robbie Fradd by nine winners in a renewed quest for the title.
Man Of Honour is back in action as is Supreme Bases but they could end up being bit players. Neither has been particularly distinguished over this trip in the past with the Ivan Allan-trained Man Of Honour having had his moment of glory last time.