Filly has breeding to cover added ground
By ROBIN PARKE
CLASSICALLY bred Casablanca has matured considerably in the off-season and could easily make a mockery of her current rating mark at Happy Valley tomorrow night as well as providing an ideal banker for the second leg of the Double Trio.
The Ivan Allan-trained filly was supported on a number of occasions last season but she never really threatened to win a race although she was on the pace and finished in the frame twice.
As a result of that campaign, Casablanca is now in Class Four and off a rating mark which allows her to compete in Class Five company. This downward overlapping has produced some very good winners both this season and last.
Casablanca is by the French Derby winner Darshaan who was the top European three-year-old stayer in 1984 with wins that also included the Prix Hocquart and the Criterium de Saint-Cloud.
Of more significance is that he has been a success at stud with a host of progeny gathering stakes earnings of GBP3 million.
In her griffin year Casablanca was campaigned over essentially sprint distances with two runs over 1,400 metres, scarcely a trip that is suggested as ideal by her breeding.
But the key to possible success at Happy Valley tomorrow night is not just the step up to 1,650 metres but her greater maturity. While Casablanca may never scale the heights, she is certainly capable of winning in Class Five.
Champion jockey Basil Marcus rides the grey and from her barrier (five) should have little trouble getting her into a favourable position. And over this trip, Casablanca should run on stoutly.
It is not a race of much depth but Va Vite and Gagne Vite are worthy of consideration for DT legs. The latter ran well at his seasonal debut and is good enough around Happy Valley while Va Vite has shown some encouraging signs that could lead to a decent run from him.
The first leg of the Double Trio sees Prince Igor step out for the second time this season and he should be a short odds to oblige in this 1,800-metre Class Three event.
Trainer Wong Tang-ping has had a good start to the season and Prince Igor looked unlucky not to win at his first start when finishing second to Cheguei who re-opposes tomorrow night.
Cheguei prevailed last time at Sha Tin and, as far as an eventual inquiry and objection were concerned, deserved to keep the race.
But that did not alter the fact that Prince Igor, with Tony Cruz up, was the luckless runner. Cruz went for a run between Muster Mark and Cheguei that did not seem to be there and received a check which ultimately cost him the race.
As Cheguei has been penalised for winning where he might well have rightly finished second, he is at a distinct disadvantage against Prince Igor who has clearly benefited from his first-up run.
Cheguei, who remains in good form, must be included while bottomweight Planet makes appeal, too.
He has been working well and trainer Lam Hung-fie has engaged Irish ace Mick Kinane for the gelding. Darren Gauci, who has been doing a lot of riding for Lam, is on last-start winner Courageous for his retaining stable and should also be included.