Wind Winner ready to score for Cruz
Trainer Tony Cruz dominated the big events last season and punters at Sha Tin today will pin their faith on him producing another runner of great potential when Wind Winner carries their hopes in the Dongguan Handicap (1,600m).
While last season's three leading trainers, John Size, Cruz and David Hayes, have made quiet starts to the new season, Cruz has still managed a winner at both meetings to date and looks likely to keep his score ticking over today, despite having only four runners.
Wind Winner began his brief career flashing up from last over 1,400m at Sha Tin in May to finish just behind the placings when the race was certainly not run to suit the backmarkers. After that eye-catching debut, Wind Winner repeated his brilliant finishing burst with an extra 200m to run despite having to travel wide on the course at the rear of the field.
He could not have been more impressive looping his rivals to down Sprinter and boom youngster, Lucky Port, over the same course he tackles this afternoon.
The four-year-old probably needed the outing when he trialled last month but has been kept busy by Cruz and jockey Felix Coetzee on the track since, and South China Morning Post Racing Editor Murray Bell made careful note of Wind Winner when the colt jumped out on Thursday morning with speedy stable companion, Bullish General.
'Wind Winner was on the inside of Bullish General in that piece of work, they ran good time but at first I was a bit disappointed that the Class Five horse was able to stick with Wind Winner as well as he did,' Bell observed.
'But that was a sharp jump out, this is 1,600m in race conditions. Some of his other work has been excellent and the thing that strikes me is that Wind Winner looks to have built up and strengthened during the summer break. He won't be at his top for this race and I expect to see great improvement with further racing, but he stands out on the score of scope.'
Ricky Yiu Poon-fie-trained Sprinter meets Wind Winner again today and, on paper at least, the nine-pound weight turnaround in his favour should make him competitive.
He found the line nicely enough under stable rider Yann Lerner in a recent trial up the Sha Tin straight, has worked well enough and has raced strongly while fresh in the past.
But while Sprinter has been a genuine trier through his career, he is still the winner of only one race and the authority shown by Wind Winner in their last meeting suggests the weights may not tell the final tale.
Danny Shum Chap-shing and Caspar Fownes have held the headlines for the start of the season and Shum will send out rejuvenated Lucky King as one of the dangers to Wind Winner in the race.
Since his move to Shum late last season, Lucky King has not taken a backward step with a win and two excellent seconds from three runs.