McKeown all set to make a winning dash
By ROBIN PARKE
RISING star Dashing can give English rider Dean McKeown his first Hong Kong winner at Sha Tin today and confirm the great promise shown in his first campaign in the territory last season.
If ever a horse was aptly-named, it is this strapping New Zealand chestnut whose striking looks are matched by his on-course performances which resulted in three wins and two seconds from five starts last season.
You really cannot get much better than that in Hong Kong's competitive racing environment and trainer Geoff Lane, who must rate this as one of his most astute purchases, is expecting big things this season.
And there is no reason why the versatile Dashing will not confirm today that he could be vying for the sprint crown at the end of the season - even though two of his last three victories were over the mile trip.
Dashing is a superbly athletic type and has the look of a quality sprinter, although he was quite easily able to take longer races last season.
Whichever way Lane may choose to send him this season this pipe-opening 1,200-metre event looks just right.
Dashing has shown with one fine trial and some solid work that he is ready to take on all-comers.
The measure of his sprinting form last really came at his second start when he was ridden by ageing maestro Lester Piggott to a 11/4-length victory over exciting Octagon Star.
That was course and distance and Piggott never looked in the remotest danger.
After that he was stepped up to a mile at the Valley and easily accounted for Racing Ace.
He lost out at the end of the season to Wind Dancer, tuned right up for the Sha Tin Vase race, but may have been feelings the effects of the campaign.
McKeown was almost off the mark on Wednesday with outsider Perfect Sunshine and he impressed with his gritty determination to get that one home. He gets the perfect partner in Dashing.
It would be foolish, however, to suggest that it is open and shut. It is a top class race and others in the field of 11 have claims.
Super Fit did not really impress at all in a recent trial but his work after that was much better and he is obviously getting closer to race fitness. He should give an account of himself today and there will be plenty of interest in the Patrick Biancone-trained Drawing Away.
The gelding started only once early last season but Biancone has got him back to fitness and he has run creditably in trials and in morning work. He can shift along and Eric Legrix should have him in the firing line throughout.
Happy Guy is fit enough but is an in-and-out performer who has been tried over a variety of distances and the longer sprint may not be absolutely ideal, even at this early stage.
Tony Cruz rides Peace Gallery for trainer Eddie Lo Kwok-chow and plenty of work has been put into this fellow for his seasonal debut. At his best he would be capable of seriously worrying Dashing and he is worth including in the quinella although, with Cruz up, he may well be under the odds.