Opera Magic on song for Legrix as Frenchman seals double

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 01 December, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 01 December, 2002, 12:00am

Top French rider Eric Legrix capped a good week with a double at Sha Tin yesterday to follow on from where he left off at Happy Valley in midweek.

The Frenchman took home a pair at Happy Valley on Wednesday and struck in mid-card yesterday to win on the Peter Chapple-Hyam-trained Champion Speed in race four and then Opera Magic broke through for Brian Kan Ping-chee two races later.

Legrix had been on Opera Magic for Kan two starts ago when finishing third to Celestial Magic in what has turned out to be a solid Class Four event early this month, and said the gelding was a superior horse in blinkers yesterday.

'I like this horse, he is a nice big, strong horse and can improve. When I rode him before, I thought he was not concentrating in the race,' Legrix explained. 'And then at his next start, when Douglas Whyte rode him, he looked the same that day. But with blinkers for the first time, he was a much more focused horse.'

Although Opera Magic has the pace to lead a 1,400-metre race, Legrix said his instructions had been to look for a sit from gate one and he found Mendoza (Dwayne Dunn) happy to go through and take on the role in his first run for Sean Woods.

'We didn't want Opera Magic to over-race in the blinkers so Brian asked me to steady him early and find some cover,' the jockey said. 'I just got behind Dwayne's horse and he took me well into the straight and when I came around him my horse stretched out like a decent horse. People might look at his win today and think it was the wet going that made a difference. I don't think it was a question of going, it was a question of blinkers and he will be just as good on the firmer ground.'

Champion Speed had shown some signs of ability in his trials and races before yesterday, but had looked a horse which might need time. He stunned punters with a 44-1 knockout blow in the middle leg of the Triple Trio yesterday although Chapple-Hyam had given his jockey a degree of confidence.

'I had never been on the horse before but Peter told me he was very happy with his work in the mornings so it was not a complete surprise,' Legrix said. 'Of course, he is only a baby coming through but he does everything right and that was nice.'

Champion Speed showed the same pace he had at his first two runs this season to be prominent in the running to the home turn, but the three-year-old from the 2001 International Sale was stronger yesterday where it counted. 'I think he was a bit fitter for having those races and more experienced, but actually I think this race over 1,400 metres was a little bit short for him so he did a good job to win,' Legrix said. 'Probably on firm going, the distance would have come against him. But that little bit of give in the ground, even at that stage of the day, helped him.'

Legrix said the gelding appeared to have a future over a little longer. 'He is going to come on with racing and experience and he could be a miler and maybe even get a little bit further than that,' Legrix said.

Whilst Chapple-Hyam has had only five winners for the season to date, his strike rate from limited runners places him amongst the top five trainers. 'I think you can see that Peter is doing a fine job this season. His horses are looking well and racing well and he just needs the numbers in his stable,' said the Jockey Club's executive director of racing, Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, who was delighted to see yet another of the Jockey Club's Sales graduates win. 'And I think there is more ahead for Champion Speed because he was not wound up for this race.'

The Australian-bred was one of two Danehills to score on the card yesterday, emphasising the extra length the breed seems to find when there is cut in the ground.