Begg gives hint of Winning ways
WINNING Partners gave a glimpse of things to come with a smooth barrier trial performance over 1,050 metres on the all-weather at Sha Tin yesterday morning.
The Neville Begg-trained five-year-old won two of his three starts last season and would have made it three out of three with any luck in running when just failing to catch Colourful World on the second of those outings.
He was badly hampered that day but showed a tremendous burst of speed in the straight to make up considerable ground in the final 300 metres.
He then came out and bolted in when ridden up with the pace and yesterday went strongly throughout when kept under restraint by stable rider Darren Beadman who looks just the top class jockey to bring out the best in this sprinter-miler.
Beadman settled him in mid-division in yesterday's trial eventually won in good style by Patrick Biancone's City Raider from Wong Tang-ping's Royal Horse.
The early speed was cut out by Alex Wong Yu-on's Paradise and Derek Cruz's Commander.
But these are more work horses than horses that race well and are not to be relied upon on race days.
They also weakened on the run to the line in yesterday's trial as City Raider and Royal Horse closed strongly with Winning Partners moving best of all a horse or two on their outside with Beadman sitting pretty still.
The two victories have seen Winning Partners move from Class Three to Class One so he will be tackling much stiffer opposition this season.
All the same he looks to have the quality to handle the transition to the top grade.
Begg and Beadman were on target in the third trial when their speedy-but-troubled Active Market came through to catch long-time leader Red Star in the shadows of the post.
Active Market is another horse who habitually works really well and fluently but he has suffered from bleeding attacks and a heart irregularity in the past.
Begg gave him a long spell to get over those last season and has been bringing him along as steadily as possible but it is hard not to imagine they will have left some lasting effect.
Red Star showed enough to suggest he could be winning again around 1,400 metres for Chris Cheung Ting-pong.
Gary Ng Ting-keung's nice young horse, Link Treasure, who was only lightly raced last season, went well for third. He is a little way off peak condition but looks to have a future.
The first heat went to Biancone's close-season acquisition Diamond Head who came from off the pace to win a shade cosily.
But he has been a good work horse for the last few seasons only for his inherent problems to come to the surface when put under full pressure in his races proper.
David Hill's Four Winds led them for much of the way in this trial, showing far more speed than last season before just running out of condition in the last 100 metres or so under stable apprentice Raymond S.M. Tam.
Four Winds was a consistent performer last campaign - his first with Hill after being over-trained with his previous handler - and could well show further improvement.
The final heat saw a decisive win from Cheung's close-season acquisition, Should Run For Me, who ran a number of highly creditable races for John Moore last season from 1,400 metres to 2,000 metres, grass and equitrack, without quite managing to get his head in front.
He worked well in a searching piece on the grass last Saturday and in yesterday's trial he was hitting the line really powerfully under Johnny Ho.
He has a staying engagement over 2,000 metres coming up and with this work, coupled to an earlier useful trial performance down the straight 1,000 metres, he should be one of the fittest in the race.
First trial: 1, DIAMOND HEAD (E. Legrix); 2, Royal Patrol (C. W. Choi); 3, Imperial Braid (W. M. Lai). Others (in finishing order): African Warrior, Four Winds, Noble Regent, Polygain, Sure Money, Let It Be, Taipan Star, Gagne Vite. Time: 1:03.2 (24.4). Distances: 11/2 lengths, 1 length. Winner trained by Patrick Biancone.
Second trial: 1, CITY RAIDER (E. Legrix); 2, Royal Horse (J. Lloyd); 3, Winning Partners (D. Beadman). Others: Paradise, Sandal Emperor, Golden Star, Everwell Times, Trustwell, Lucky Money, Global Star, Commander. Time: 1.02.8 (23.4). Distances: neck, 11/2 lengths. Winner trained by Patrick Biancone.
Third trial: 1, ACTIVE MARKET (D. Beadman); 2, Red Star (J. Marshall); 3, Link Treasure (W. M. Lai). Others: Cheerful Prince, Winning Colors, Rocketeer, Hankow Star, Truly Easy, First Touch, Shine, Another Star. Time: 1.01.8 (23.9). Distances: head, 2 lengths. Winner trained by Neville Begg.
Fourth trial: 1, SHOULD RUN FOR ME (J. K. S. Ho); 2, Electric Power (W. M. Lai); 3, Good Assistant (J. Lloyd). Others: Viva Viva, Keep Winning, Patu, Sun Crest, Make It Happen, Star Of Lihlin, Gold Venture, Golden Dragon, Diamond Forever. Time: 1.02.3 (23.7). Distances: 3 lengths, 11/2 lengths. Winner trained by Cheung Ting-pong.