Perfect Motivation at his best in Cup win
MOTIVATION, leading local finisher in the International Cup last season, tied down his spot on the home quartet in next month's race with a superb win in yesterday's $1.25 million National Panasonic Cup at Sha Tin.
The Argentinian-bred galloper dispelled any doubts about fitness during his first run of the season with a slashing half-length defeat of the grey Wonderful World (9-2), who had been laid out for the race.
Conversely, trainer John Moore had by-passed earlier lead-up events to prepare his stayer for this Class One, 1,800-metre event - even though he looked to be at a distinct disadvantage against good horses who already had one or two runs behind them.
But Motivation (6-1), one of the more interestingly-bred imports to race in the territory, was brilliantly defending the trophy that he won last year.
Motivation, who beat River Verdon last season in the 1,800-metre International Cup, is an automatic selection following this performance, which staggered even his jockey, John Marshall.
''He's a very good horse as we all know. But I must honestly say that I was worried even though John had put a lot of work into getting him ready. When you are tackling 1,800 metres first-up and against good horses who have won and run well already, it is a task.
''But you couldn't ask for much more from a horse. He might have been feeling it a bit close to the end but he never shirked. I thought it was a very impressive win,'' enthused Marshall.
The former Sydney champion now looks assured of a ride in the Cup and it is considerable consolation after the bleeding attack suffered by Happy Money in midweek at Happy Valley.
Motivation simply charged through in the centre of the track to take it up in the final 100 metres, easily wearing down Wonderful World, who had hit the front inside the final 200 metres.
Innovation (8-1) was given every chance and looked a threat halfway down the straight but had no answer to the finishing power of the winner and may not be as strong over this trip.
Conversely, topweight and favourite Fortune Leader (3-1) looked as if he wanted to run further, despite his two wins over 1,600 metres earlier this season.
But trainer David Hill was buoyant in defeat and said: ''There was not a really strong pace on early which would have helped him. He still finished fifth with 140 pounds and it was a good run.'' Fortune Leader did look to be struggling before they straightened but did run home fairly well and is still an obvious chance for the $5 million International Cup.
Wonderful World was kept handy to the pace by South African Jeff Lloyd and certainly seemed to enjoy the role. He swung for home full of running and when Lloyd popped the question the Irish stayer moved quickly into top gear and swept to the lead.
His last run under a crushing 144 pounds when Wonderful World finished fifth, suggested the Ivan Allan-trained stayer was bang on target for this race, and selection for the Cup.
Wonderful World ran well in defeat but it was difficult to see how either the grey or Fortune Leader would be turning the tables on Motivation in a set weights race.
Lightly-weighted Enthusiasm (20-1), who did not have all the luck in running, came home well to snatch third spot from Innovation, responding well to the prompting of rising apprentice star, Francis K. S. Lam.
Derby prospect Our Pal (9-2) found it tough going in his first crack at the very best company. He never seemed to be happy in the run and finished eighth in the field of 12. There seemed no excuses.