Former griffins sure to need time to find their feet
Five former griffins competed on the opening day of the season, none of them managing to score even though there was decent market support for most of the younger brigade.
The most important lesson to be gleaned at this early stage of the season is that it may be wise not to take the short odds on offer about last season's juveniles.
There is no doubt that most of those who competed on Sunday will win their share of races this season but it does take them some time to adjust to the rigours of racing against more seasoned opposition.
Last season's Juvenile Sprint Trophy winner Classa For Ever ($62) didn't get a chance to dictate the race at his own pace when General Kingy applied plenty of early pressure in the 1,200 metres contest (Race 10).
He was a spent force soon after straightening and faded rather tamely to wind up in last position. There is no question he is a decent galloper but will probably need another run, at least, before he begins to live up to the potential he's already shown.
There was heavy support for another three-year-old, Great Achievement ($32), who jumped equal favourite with third-placed Green Treasure but ended up second last, beaten 191/2 lengths in the 1,400m event (Race Nine).
He won in similar company towards the end of last season so he has proven he is good enough to win in this grade but a key reason for the defeat was lack of fitness.
He only had a light preparation and the three-year-old gelding was conceding weight all round. He will improve a lot from the run. Dragon And Gold ($87) was also well found in the betting and finished ninth, being forced to lead to overcome a wide barrier but folding tamely in the straight.
The 2002-03 griffins that performed the best, Multi Millions and Gallant Falcon, competed in Class Four contests on Sunday, both finishing runner-up.
The former hit the line strongly to finish second to Winning Parade over 1,200m (Race Two) and leaves the clear impression he is looking for a step up in trip. Also looking for a longer journey is Gallant Falcon, who looked decidedly one-paced over the Sha Tin mile (Race Four).
Even though the steady tempo was in his favour, Gallant Falcon was not on the best part of the track with several winners on the day coming down the centre of the course.
Somewhat surprisingly, the rail was not the best place to be on the opening day of the season. Just Victory, who competed in the first event led all of the way on the rail and was the only horse to do so.
Sambuca did lead all of the way over 1,400m (Race Eight) under a well-rated ride from Dwayne Dunn but the Australian rider switched him to the middle of the course upon straightening.
Second-season trainers Danny Shum Chap-shing and Caspar Fownes repeated the success they enjoyed in their rookie season by taking out half the card.
The Duke won off a sensational ride from Patrick Payne in the HKSAR Chief Executive's Cup (Race Seven) beating rising star Town Of Fionn.
The runner-up lost little in defeat after being caught three-wide without cover but stuck on gamely. Town of Fionn's stablemate Triumphant Unicorn clocked 0.3 seconds faster than the Class One to win the final event of the day (Race 10) in a stylish manner.
The exciting aspect about his victory is that he still looks as though there is plenty more to come and even though the track was riding around 0.2 seconds faster than standard, his winning effort came half a second quicker than the standard time for the class.
The best time on the clock for the day came from Jolly Good Fortune who clocked 56.4 seconds down the straight 1,000m (Race Five).
His winning effort was 0.7 seconds faster than standard and he has improved since last term and looks capable of further progress.
In the same event Flying Success (fourth) ran well over an unsuitable trip.
Lowly-rated Tori Top performed admirably over the unsuitable 1,400m (Race One) to finish second. His light preparation was a telling factor and he will strip fitter next time round.
Much the same applies for runner-up Winning Emperor who flew home over 1,400m (Race Three) along with Maestro (fifth).
ONES TO NOTE: Tori Top, Flying Success