Start the year in Stylish fashion
Stylish, so unlucky not to win at Happy Valley prior to Christmas, can make amends in the final event on the traditional New Year's Day card at Sha Tin.
The John Moore-trained four-year-old looked a highly talented individual from the moment he started working and trialling last season and he's done nothing but improve since.
This campaign he's come back even better. He needed the run first time out on the dirt when a solid third to Our Class and Success Magic. After that Moore took the trouble to put a barrier trial into this son of Rory's Jester and he went through in Rolls-Royce fashion.
Not surprisingly he was backed down to 3.8-1 favouritism for his most recent outing in that 1,000-metre Valley sprint.
The minimum dash round the Valley is a bit on the short side for him which is why he was just off the pace, but travelling strongly, for champion jockey Robbie Fradd. When they straightened for home, nothing appeared to be going better than Stylish. It was just a question of him picking them up when the gap appeared.
The only trouble was the requisite gap did not appear in time and Fradd had to sit and suffer before switching him out and around and then powering him to the line.
Stylish hit the line best of all and, from this reading of the race at the time and from a subsequent scrutiny of the videotape, it is pretty easy to come up with an argument that Stylish would have won with normal luck in running.
As it was he went down by a fast-diminishing three-quarters of a length and didn't even finish in the first three. But that is the nature of racing here, so often the first three placings are decided by less than a length.
The handicapper has raised Stylish two pounds for that decent effort. It may seem harsh as he only ran fourth but that would be a very one dimensional view. A better standpoint is that he's a winner without a penalty. If the split had come his way, he would almost certainly have won and won going away. He would then be racing from something like a seven or even eight-pound higher mark as Success Magic, the winner, was put up six pounds.
To this end, maybe the best way of viewing Stylish is as a winner without a winner's penalty and thus he becomes a very well handicapped horse. He's gone along nicely since and generally Moore's stable is absolutely flying.
Super Century ran much better last time and could be on the way back. With so many of trainer Tony Cruz's horses firing on all cylinders he has to be taken as a strong quinella leg with the selection.
Sterling Star, from the Ivan Allan stable, is another who now appears much better in himself. He is worth respecting through the quinella and tierce pools. Sparky, blinkered for the first time, and Romantic Symphony, could be best of the rest.
Elsewhere on the programme, dirt lover Bold'N Power should be hard to beat in the second event in which Landlord, Rory's Bid, Explosive Power and Silver Collector look the only realistic quinella and tierce chances as this could be a bit tough for Winwin Combination.