Storm to blow away rivals
David Hill has had a typically quiet start to this season with just one winner, but he can double his tally at Sha Tin today by landing the Japan Racing Association Trophy with exciting prospect Desert Storm.
It was actually Desert Storm who provided Hill with his only winner so far this term, when the tenacious son of Green Desert fought off a determined challenge from Sparky. Due to the narrow margin of victory, Desert Storm has eluded a major rise in the weights, receiving just six points in the handicap. In retrospect, that looks a rather lenient assessment when considering that Sparky, fourth-placed Lifeline Express and V-Can (sixth) have all gone on to win on their next appearance.
Since that run Desert Storm has also impressed in a barrier trial, where he was not pressured, and he looks primed for his assault on the 1,400-metre feature. Champion jockey Douglas Whyte has found a purple patch of form himself and the South African rider is unbeaten in three rides aboard this talented sort. He is likely to start at rather skinny odds, but he does look hard to oppose.
Hardest to beat should be Tony Millard's Northern Flyer, who is something of a course-and-distance specialist, having won twice and finished in the frame on another occasion from four attempts. The slight concern is that he is going to have a difficult assignment from gate 13, but one possible advantage is that the race should be run at a genuine tempo with Expedient, Splendid Patrol and Eastern Magnate all liking to race prominently.
Expedient will benefit from the drop back in distance and also faces easier opposition than on his last start. However, four of his five victories have come at Happy Valley, where he is clearly better suited.
Splendid Patrol was a shade disappointing last time, particularly as there did not appear to be any real excuses. One possibility is that he may have backed up a little too quickly and he can be given another chance. He is dangerously weighted and must be included in multiples.
Eastern Magnate is yet another multiple winner over today's course and distance, and considering his last win rating was 75, he appears well treated in the handicap today off a slightly higher mark of 77. Interestingly, his bodyweight is almost identical to when he last won, and he has worked solidly leading up to his seasonal reappearance.
Huangdi ran over this trip on 10 occasions last season and managed to make the frame on five occasions, including one win. He clearly found the minimum trip far too short for his liking last time and he will be suited by the likely fast pace today.
Ricky Yiu Poon-fie picked up Projectstar from Hill during the break, and the pint-sized chestnut does have some rather positive fresh form. He is yet to win in Hong Kong, but he has been impressing in his work and is worth keeping safe.
Somluck has run with merit on both his outings this season, and he is another who is going to appreciate the solid tempo. He is a five-time winner over this trip and appears well treated in the handicap considering his last win rating was 83, some 10 points higher than he is today.
Of the remainder, How Fluke has made no impression so far from just two outings and can be left out, while stablemate Diamond And Gold was well beaten on his seasonal reappearance and this is no easier. Mughal Palace may just improve with this outing and Never Say Never will find it difficult from a wide gate.