Treasure facing tougher rivals
Green Treasure's victory when scoring narrowly over 1,800 metres earlier this month was a good deal better than the bare facts suggest, and the progressive son of Danehill should take some beating today as he faces stiffer opposition in the Ireland Trophy on his first attempt over 2,000 metres.
Derek Cruz has led Green Treasure into the winner's enclosure three times already this season and there has been touch of brilliance about each respective success.
In many ways, the sheer tenacity of his latest victory may have been his best to date. Green Treasure had to quicken from a steady pace, and after hitting the front with a furlong to run, he then showed plenty of heart to fight off a determined challenge from Oscar Star, who rallied strongly in the concluding stages.
The Derby hopeful will be competing over the classic distance today for the first time, and there is every indication he should be ideally suited.
The dam's side of Green Treasure's pedigree would certainly point to him looking for this sort of trip, if not further as his mother Sitella is a daughter of Epsom Derby winner and renowned stamina influence Shirley Heights.
Another key point in Green Treasure's favour is the barrier draw (two), with a couple of his main rivals not having the desired luck in that department. Douglas Whyte will be able to ride his own race. He will not be forced to cover any extra ground, and should be close enough to take any advantage of a steady tempo.
Of course, the inclusion of Lancettier can make this a truly-run contest, but that would only enhance the chances of Green Treasure.
The obvious threat to Green Treasure has to be the John Moore-trained Best Gift, who simply annihilated his opposition over 1,800 metres on New Years Day.
He had always displayed an abundance of potential prior to that win, and he showed what a class act he can be when he does everything right.
The obvious concern is the barrier. Christophe Soumillon will need to be at his brilliant best to offset the disadvantage of gate 13 and it is hard to envisage him not being caught wide at some stage of the race. He is an exciting prospect and, with a little luck in running, will prove hard to beat.
Tony Cruz will be hoping Lancettier goes every bit as hard in the lead as he did on Boxing Day when Super Combed prevailed over the course and distance.
The scintillating turn of foot of Super Combed is good enough to propel him a good deal higher in the ratings and no-one could deny him a winning chance. To a large extent, his chances hinge on whether the pace is strong enough.
The pace could be the determining factor for Super Combed's stablemate Wind Winner, who was a shade disappointing when eighth to Green Treasure. Apart from David Hayes' Lancettier, there aren't any competitors likely to ensure a solid pace. And even if Lancettier were to attain a soft lead, his form is simply not good enough to warrant respect. John Size's Liberal's Choice often likes to race prominently and, from gate 14, Anthony Delpech has little option but to be aggressive from the outset. He is coming down to a rating where he can be followed but others are preferred.
Danny Shum Chap-shing's Summerland is a possible on-pace runner, but he can be inclined to over-race and the likelihood of Glyn Schofield trying to find cover is strong. His recent form has been satisfactory but needs to step up a level to figure in the finish this time round. Shum's Kingfield looks outclassed and can be opposed.
The step up to 2,000m is interesting for First Among Equals, who has competed over the Sha Tin mile on his last six outings. It would appear he has reached his mark in the handicap, although if he is looking for this distance, he could improve and is certainly one to consider.
One of the more interesting entries is Sing Fay Fay, who was beaten 33/4 lengths by Green Treasure on his second start. It was a decent performance, and there should be more improvement to come. There was no market support for him that day, so it may be wise to watch for any this afternoon.
It would be difficult to make a case for either Ambitious Tycoon or Sprinter, each having reached his limit in the ratings for the time being. Cypress Hill just hasn't shown enough positive form in three local starts and is best watched for the future.
Probably the best outsider in the race is David Oughton's Lucky Hands, who has recently shown major improvement when competing on the all-weather dirt track. If there is any rain about, his chances will be enhanced, and he comes into this contest competitively weighted after apprentice Way Leung Ming-wai takes his five pound allowance.