Sharki set to rumble
Sharki, a contender for Griffin of the Year honours last season, can continue the excellent work of the Tony Millard-Dwayne Dunn team and return with a victory in today's third event at Sha Tin.
Sharki is a three-year-old, New Zealand-bred son of exciting shuttle stallion Cape Cross. He's only raced four times for three wins and a second, with his only failure being at his second start when he was possibly a victim to second-up syndrome.
That flop aside, Sharki's scorecard is one of superior merit, having inflicted a defeat on odds-on favourite Great Win down the straight track on debut and, three months later, scoring at his first try in Class Four when once again on the fresh side.
Sharki's only other run was an excellent second to Classa For Ever in the Juvenile Championship, a race which used to have Group Three status.
Millard was a high-profile invitee to Hong Kong and immediately justified the faith the Jockey Club showed in him by winning the Hong Kong Derby in his first season with Keen Winner.
This season, Millard has brought in Dunn on a short-term retainer, and the duo have been an instant success, winning on opening day with Sambuca and posting subsequent wins with Taiji Spirit and Keen Flyer. The South African also won the feature event on the September 11 programme with Sirocco, ridden by apprentice Alex Lai Hoi-wing.
Sharki had an interesting trial on the all-weather track on September 17, when he ran seventh to one of his main rivals tomorrow in Diligent.
The first surprise was that Sharki showed more speed than he had in his griffin races, going straight to the lead and doing it comfortably on a long rein for Dunn.
The second unexpected piece of this script was that Dunn began easing the black gelding out of the trial from the home turn.
The obvious answer is that because Millard knew Sharki would be resuming today at a distance of 1,200 metres, he did not want to tax his energies by giving trialling him over the full 1,200 metres on the dirt track. So after a bonny 800 metres, Dunn began to apply the brakes.
Diligent, ridden by Brett Doyle, came from a long way back to win that trial and did so impressively. The chestnut five-year-old won stylishly when fresh at this time last year and the presence of Douglas Whyte in the saddle this afternoon means no risks should be taken.
But one word of warning: Diligent has shown in the past that he prefers a bit of racing room, and he's no good thing to get it his own way from barrier one. But let's not be too dogmatic about that with the magical Durban Demon in charge of the steering department. He'll more than likely chart the right course, as he usually does.
Helene Pillaging is the other interesting runner. A Group One winning juvenile in Australia, he's tumbled to Class Three after 16 winless starts for David Hayes and is now with Tony Cruz. Trackwatchers, including our own Clint Hutchison, are tipping him today, so be prepared for a forward performance.