Dragon to scorch rivals
A Class Five dash down the Sha Tin straight 1,000-metre chute is right up Speedy Dragon's street. The Francis Lui-trained six-year is taken to win this afternoon's opening event at the New Territories venue on a card which promises to throw up plenty of decent betting opportunities.
Speedy Dragon ran well enough first up over 1,400 metres in the Class Four event won by Laser Pride. He was priced at any old odds on that occasion and it was clearly not his race. But this afternoon's contest looks ideal, especially as it is seemingly such a thin event with very few main dangers.
Last season Speedy Dragon won twice in Class Five when extremely well placed by Lui who is not a trainer to underestimate just because he goes about things in a unassuming manner. Lui has been very much a success story since taking over from former champion jockey Tony P. H. Chan when he had his trainer's licence suspended and, eventually, never renewed.
The first of Speedy Dragon's victories was gained in a Class Five 1,150-metre dirt sprint and the second came down the straight by half a length from Barish on whom the brilliant Kieren Fallon extracted positively the last ounce of effort. The pair dominated their rivals, pulling 1.25 lengths clear of Cossack, and that is nearly always a good sign.
Earlier, Speedy Dragon also ran second to Perfect Sport in a Class Five sprint down the same straight 1,000-metre chute and often it is vital to side with those with straight-course form as it lends itself to specialists as much as the dirt does.
Speedy Dragon's last victory came from a mark of 39. This afternoon he looks very fairly assessed on a mark six pounds lower, given that last season he won twice and ran second once. And, interestingly, the French ace Eric Legrix, who partners a number of Lui's leading hopes during the course of each season, appears to prefer Speedy Dragon to the Ricky Yiu Poon-fie-trained Fortune Sallian who has to be one of the main dangers.
Legrix's choice of mounts is a big tip in itself, but this doesn't mean that Fortune Sallian won't give Speedy Dragon plenty to think about. Fortune Sallian shaped nicely when third first-up when far from fully wound up. Last season he landed a bit of a touch when beating Botany Bay a head over 1,400 metres at Sha Tin from a mark of 38. He then failed to handle Class Four but is now back to a mark of 29 and in a grade where he is likely to prove most competitive. He could be the main quinella hope.
Rory's Bid has plummeted down the ratings and has worked with considerably more zip since keeping on well on his reappearance to run second to Asian Express on the dirt. Asian Express has franked the form by winning well on Wednesday night and Rory's Bid looks one of the other main chances.
Bold Dancer likes the straight 1,000-metre chute and must also be given respect, especially as he makes his debut for Lawrie Fownes. Fownes is unrivalled when it comes to improving horses who have moved stables. Hero's Choice and Longmark look best of the others.
Elsewhere on the card, Lui's Tambora Star looks to be flying in readiness for the third event, Good Message should be very hard to beat in a weak seventh race, Litigado can underline his sheer staying quality by taking the feature Japan Racing Association Trophy while Asia Rising could well be a Class One performer in the making and is thus the one to be on in the last.