Diablo the one to tempt punters
By Racing Editor LAWRENCE WADEY
DIABLO looks to have an outstanding chance of winning at the first time of asking for Neville Begg in tonight's second event on the Happy Valley grass.
A stable change can make all the difference to a horse's performance, as has been witnessed on countless occasions over the last few seasons.
Diablo appears to have made tremendous progress both physically and mentally since moving from Kenny Kam to Begg towards the end of last season and is a real credit to his trainer on looks alone.
He also comes into this evening's Class Four sprint round the minimum 975-metre trip going as well if not better in his work than at any time over the last year or so.
He is very relaxed and was noted in a recent trial moving very smoothly and fluently in behind the pace setters.
Begg has him in a most co-operative frame of mind, has removed the blinkers and these gear changes are another important winner-finding aid in Hong Kong.
From a handicapping point of view there is also much to like about Diablo's chance, in addition to the revitalised condition, his looks, his relaxed attitude and the gear change.
Last season he ran some highly creditable races in Class Three and, to be fair to his previous trainer, he was unlucky not to win on two occasions.
Last time out he was beaten by just half a length into third by none other than Courageous over 1,400 metres at Sha Tin and Courageous has franked that form by whizzing home in Saturday's Hong Kong Country Club Cup.
When Diablo was third to Courageous, the first three home pulled over three lengths clear of fourth-placed Lucky Swallow.
It is always a sign of good form when the first few home pull so far clear so there is a really solid ring to Diablo's Class Three form.
Earlier, he might well have been second to impressive first-time-out scorer Manor Lord over 1,200 metres at Sha Tin in Class Three but for being badly hampered. He eventually came home a fast-finishing fourth.
And prior to that he was beaten just a quarter of a length into third by Namjong and All Thrills, both of whom went on to win good races, with the promising Souper and the consistent Class Three performer Phantasy Way behind.
On that sort of form, Diablo comes out on a rating of about 64 so he looks very reasonably treated competing tonight from a mark of 54.
The biggest danger may well be the distance. The 975-metre sprint is on the short side for him but he is fresh.
The quinella looks hard to pick and it may well be better to just back Diablo for a win. Of the other seven horses only Harmony and the inexperienced Action Win are hard to concede a quinella chance.
The Lawrie Fownes-Darren Gauci bandwagon can roll on in the night's final event for which their Sunday Cruise looks poised to return to form.
He rather lost his way last season when plagued with hoof problems but has been working with all his old zest in the lead-up to this quality Class Two mile event.
He has trialled very well and worked fluently in a jump out from the barriers on Monday.
At the end of the season before last he was capable of running to a mark of around 90 when beating Perkyman by a length over a mile at Sha Tin.
Perkyman is three pounds better off for that length at tonight's revised weights but does not appear to be so far forward in his preparation as Sunday Cruise whose stable can do very little wrong.