Dragon set to fire for Marcus
Country Dragon can become the latest example of a system which has served punters well in recent seasons by taking the fourth event on this afternoon's Sha Tin card.
Time and time again these Class Five contests have gone to lightly raced youngsters dropping down a grade for the first or second time. Country Dragon, trained by that most astute of race-planners the former multiple champion John Moore, fits the bill to a nicety. He's only raced a handful of times and, while he has already raced in Class Five, he looked desperately unlucky not to have run second to the very well rated Exceptional and would probably have gone close to winning himself.
Country Dragon had no run at all on the far rail in that contest over this afternoon's 1,400-metre course and distance, seeing daylight only in the final 50 metres under Basil Marcus. When Marcus finally managed to extricate the son of Naturalism from the melee, his mount responded really encouragingly and made up a couple of lengths in the style of an almost certain future winner.
The form reads well as Exceptional had dropped significantly in the ratings from last season and had just been waiting for a move up in trip and had also needed a couple of runs to establish hard racing condition. Skystone, the runner-up, was running first or second for the third consecutive time and has hit his straps this term.
Since then Moore has kept Country Dragon ticking over nicely at trackwork and it appears significant that such a top judge as Marcus has opted for him rather than Legend Of Wei Hai whom he's ridden the last three times. This is especially the case as Legend Of Wei Hai, himself, has solid form claims and remains a quinella chance.
Bigger dangers, though, may come from the likes of Fortune Sallian, Refreshingly, King Cobra and Wishes while Good Job can't be ruled out of third position.
Fortune Sallian was another with big excuses last time. Irishman John Egan had no luck on him at all when a length third to Winning Luck and Bold Dancer. They were repeatedly shuffled back in the run and should have finished second.
Refreshingly has always worked as if capable of winning in Class Four, never mind in Class Five, and finally started to translate his work into raceday form last time out when only beaten by the bob of the heads by Winning Focus. Trainer David Hayes kept him fresh for that and maybe he's now found the key to the Straussbrook gelding.
King Cobra probably wasn't suited by the Happy Valley mile last time and can now benefit from the return to Sha Tin. He has a very solid set of Topspeed figures to his name and is likely to finish close up. He's an ideal type for the quinella and tierce.
Wishes probably wasn't fit earlier in the season. Trainer Alex Wong Siu-tan, who generally has his team in good form, upped the trackwork tempo prior to Wishes' recent half-length second to Recognition and he's kept his four-year-old working strongly since. Wishes should be cherry-ripe this afternoon.
Elsewhere, Money Star should be hard to beat in the opening Class Six contest while champion trainer Tony Cruz, with his string now starting to hit top form, introduces an impressive worker and type in Namjong Spirit in the third. Express Lot has had no luck at all of late and should go well in the fifth, though watch out for Elegance who is set to improve markedly for the move to a staying trip. Prospero is hard to oppose in the last but is likely to be priced accordingly - Charming Stride for the quinella.