Nilometer on fast track to success
The improvement record-chasing trainer Tony Cruz has conjured out of Nilometer has been nothing short of remarkable and his rise through the ranks looks set to continue in the Lek Yuen Handicap (Race 11) this afternoon, where he tackles Class One opposition for the first time.
With Felix Coetzee riding hometown hero Silent Witness in Japan today, Cruz has awarded the ride to Eddie Lai Wai-ming and as a result Nilometer should be slightly better value as a win bet.
And that is taking nothing away from Lai, who is a talented but underrated rider, who has won big races right through to Group One level and can get the job done from gate four.
Cruz has taken Nilometer from a rating of 74 to 94 this year and the key to the marked improvement has clearly been the application of the side winkers. Nilometer has won three times since then and on his last start finished a game second to Red Power over the Valley mile.
The move back to Sha Tin should be a bonus for Nilometer, and the way the track has been suiting on-pace runners, it should also enhance his chance to prevail.
There are a whole host of challengers that have strong chances in their own right, including Stay Young, Good Profit, Classic Master, Bumper Bumper, Five Grains and Wealthy.
Dennis Yip Chor-hong's Wealthy steps up to the Sha Tin mile for the first time after scoring four consecutive wins over his beloved 1,400m journey.
He keeps answering all the questions put to him and it is hard to deny him a winning chance in this event.
There is little doubt that Five Grains should have won when he last competed over the Valley mile in the race won by Red Power.
He will need Douglas Whyte at his best from gate 13 today, but Five Grains is racing in great form and merits strong respect.
Good Profit (second), Stay Young (third), Classic Master (sixth), Packing Angel (eighth), Wealthy Treasure (10th) and Dynamic Fun (12th) all competed in the Asakusa Handicap over 1,400m, a key race in assessing the form for this event.
On the face of it, the best performance came from Danny Shum Chap-shing's Good Profit, who looked a touch unlucky not to have won. It was an excellent effort in defeat and he should appreciate the step up in trip.
Similarly, Stay Young displayed marked improvement to finish a close third and it was his best run in some time. He has decent form over the course and distance and should figure in the finish.
Stablemate Classic Master is the likely leader and he is competitively weighted. The track bias at Sha Tin has meant the leaders have been hard to run down in recent weeks and if he is left alone in that role, he has the ability to win.
It would be difficult to envisage Packing Angel turning around the form on those rivals who finished ahead of him in the Asakusa Handicap.
John Size's Dynamic Fun should find the distance on the sharp side, while Wealthy Treasure can be rated a chance to improve significantly if there is any further rain.
However, Size's best chance of victory rests with last-start winner Bumper Bumper.
He relished the good-to-yielding conditions when he scored a comfortable victory over the course and distance, but this is the final event of the day and the track may be riding similarly. And if there is rain on the day, then he probably deserves to be favourite.
Corey Brown should be able to give him the perfect ride from gate one, and he looks a leading contender. Size's fourth entry, Palette Natural, is difficult to recommend following some mediocre form in recent weeks but could surprise on the grounds of race fitness, as he raced just seven days ago.
Blue Stitch has failed to hit the frame from six starts this term and there is no reason to suggest he can turn that around, while Industrial Success would prefer further and needs a rain-affected track to produce his best.
Joyful Spirit was beaten a long margin on his last run in the race won by Bumper Bumper and looks well out of form.