Acrobatic performance a clear sign of long-term potential
Peter Chapple-Hyam's Acrobatic gave one of the most eye-catching performances at Sha Tin on Saturday night when finishing a decidedly unlucky runner-up in the final event (race 25), which was narrowly won by Lucky Sabre under a well-judged ride from John Egan.
Steven King had ridden a perfect race on Acrobatic until the 250-metre mark, where he was caught for a run behind the tiring Lucky Stallion, who was a disappointing favourite. By the time King managed to get in the clear, Lucky Sabre had already made his winning move, and there is no doubt that with a clear run Acrobatic would have won.
The lightly-raced son of Warning had not shown much last season in a handful of runs, but he indicated that he is now acclimatised and ready to display his real potential. And, judging on the way he hit the line in the mile event, the four-year-old son should have no trouble in stepping up to 1,800 metres or further.
It was certainly no disadvantage to be positioned on the rails in the run at Saturday's meeting and, with the majority of winners and placed runners coming from that position, it is worth noting some creditable efforts which defied that pattern.
Francis Lui Kin-wai's Brilliant was certainly one of those who put the writing on the wall for a future win with his fast-finishing third to Sai Kung Star (race 17). The 1,200-metre event was won in a Class Five record time of one minute 10.2 seconds, which was a terrific feat even though the runners had first use of the track.
Brilliant, who was slowly away, was spotting the leaders a good eight lengths at the top of the straight and had to wait until the 300-metre mark for clear racing room. After seeing daylight, the lightly-raced sort dashed home to snatch third on the line, only 1.25 lengths behind the eventual winner. He can be followed over 1,400 metres or further.
New Planet justfied favouritism with a handy win under an enterprising ride form Simon Yim Hin-keung (race 20), but Born To Win and Joyful Star did well to chase him home considering both had tough runs throughout. Joyful Star was one of three leading up the field and to stick on as gamely as he did after some quick early sectionals was highly promising. There was also an eye-catching effort from Fair Lady, who jumped at odds of 97-1. Stephen Baster settled her back in the field and, while she was still showing signs of greeness in the straight, Alex Wong Siu-tan's filly was making steady headway in the straight without being put under real pressure.
Wong and Baster must have also been encouraged by the run of Sillerent over the inadequate trip of a mile (race 22). Baster was short of room in the concluding stages and, while he would not have won, Sillerent would have finished even closer than around one-length fourth behind Peaceful Century. He will relish a move up in distance and can be followed at either track.
Dragon Power also caught the eye in the same race as he did things the hard way, being caught wide throughout and giving the leading brigade a fair head-start at the top of the straight. With top weight of 133 pounds, his third-placed effort only enhanced his reputation as a reliable sort. He may, however, have to be followed in a higher-rated event judging by his amended handicap mark.
Peter Ho's former griffin Classa Win is a rather temperamental sort, but he showed clear signs of ability when finishing third to Bruin Supreme (race 23). Being a son of Trempolino, he should be far more effective over a mile or further and, with natural progression, could be winning in the near future.
The feature event on the card (race 24)was won by Survey General, with Red Sun finishing a close second. Both runners settled toward the rear, initially provoking the thought that the leaders may have gone a shade too quick. However, the final quarter was run in 23.3 seconds, and so it has to be concluded that there were some pretty disappointing efforts among the leading brigade. Apart from the winner, who has had his share of problems, it may be wise not to read too much into this result.
Last week's Happy Valley meeting was run on a yielding track, which for obvious reasons makes it slightly harder to pick future winners. David Hayes' Victory Master appears to be effective on any going and, if he had drawn a decent barrier, he would have gone very close to beating Capital Star (race 10). With Hayes' horses in such fine form, he can be followed.
Cyber Gulch won for Hayes over 1,650 metres (race 13) and, while there are serious concerns over the quality of the field he beat, to counteract that he will be more effective over farther and looks a more reliable proposition now that he has been gelded.
Tony Millard picked up Spartan in the off season and he appears to have the old-timer going extremely well. He was clearly never going to be a threat over 1,000 metres (race 12) but rallied strongly in the home straight to finish fourth behind Top Winner. He can be followed in anything from 1,400 metres to 1,800 metres.
There were a few hard-luck stories in the final event (race 16) but full credit must be given to Supreme Cat, who sat four wide for the entire journey and fought off challengers all the way down the straight. Both Trust Me and Smiling Forest were a shade unlucky and it may be worth sticking with them for the time being.
ONES TO NOTE: Acrobatic, Spartan.