Lam can underline class
RISING star Francis K. S. Lam has already outridden his maximum 10-pound claim and will start making inroads into his seven-pound allowance at Happy Valley tonight.
Lam, the most exciting youngster in local racing since the days of Tony Cruz in the early 1970s, finds himself in considerable demand from a variety of trainers and he's let no one down yet.
Lam takes out Captain Ron in one of the night's more interesting races, a Classes Three and Four, 2,000-metre event on the equitrack surface where the front-running type has drawn perfectly against the rails.
There are four apprentices involved in this local riders' race and there is no doubt that, after considerable initial scepticism, these events have proved beneficial to young jockeys.
Trainers are much more inclined to put up the younger local riders than a couple of long-serving jockeys and it has resulted in some competitive races and quite respectable betting events.
And this 10-runner contest is certainly no exception with three of the gallopers involved course and distance winners and another couple just touched off by narrow margins.
On top of that, relatively lightly-raced Casablanca shapes as if this trip is exactly what she's after, leaving only three in the field looking remote hopes.
Lam has been on Captain Ron at his last two starts, winning by half a length over a mile on the equitrack surface and then going under by four lengths last time in a race won by Valiant Red.
That race, back on October 27, to a large extent could hold the key to tonight's staying test.
Valiant Red beat home Speed Way by three parts of a length with Captain Ron four lengths from the winner. Tonight's assessment is complicated by the fact that both Speed Way and Valiant Red were last time ridden by top senior riders, Darren Gauci and JeffLloyd.
Straightaway it would have to be assumed that their apprentice replacements - no matter how worthy they might be for their respective claims - would be less able, particularly over this testing distance.
However, this is a race for local riders where the international expertise of the expatriates is missing - and quite clearly Lam, in particular, and Eddie W. M. Lai are as good and better than most involved.
Frankly, this race could turn into the best advertisement yet for these special conditions events as there are so many obvious chances with virtually all of them in peak shape.
The best two equitrack horses in the race are Speed Way and Valiant Red. The former has hardly ever run out of the frame on the surface and, despite being a rising nine-year-old, is worthy of maximum respect.
Richard K. M. So may not have collared quite as many headlines as fellow apprentice Lam, but he does get on well with this horse and has partnered it with considerable success of this surface previously.
Valiant Red may not be quite such an easy ride for young Lai as Speed Way for So. The Lawrie Fownes-trained Speed Way is a noted front runner who can bowl along, setting the pace if necessary, or sitting just off it.
Conversely Valiant Red tends to come from reasonably well off the pace in this type of race - and can require some fairly hard riding to really get him going, even though he does relish the equitrack.
The Patrick Biancone-trained City Raider is a fluent course and distance winner earlier this season and, on that run, does have claims. He will be ridden by winless Simon H. K. Yim and the French trainer has been trying for a long time to come up with a winner for the lad.
That has proven difficult to date and, while City Raider on his form has an undeniable chance, he is hard to go for with confidence here.
One of the more interesting contestants is the grey French import, Casablanca.
Ivan Allan, who has gone to the top of the trainers' table, sends out the mare tonight having seen her finish a good third to Outerwear at Sha Tin on Saturday.
Backing her up so quickly is not likely to be any major problem for one of the most astute trainers around and her proven liking for equitrack - on the evidence of one eye-catching run - makes Casablanca well worth considering.
Casablanca will be ridden by Frankie F. C. Lor who partnered her when she came from second last at the home bend here two starts back to finish second to Jogador.
That was over 1,600 metres and too short. She is certainly going to appreciate the extra distance tonight and there is going to be no doubt about her fitness.
It is worth taking the chance - one would like to assume at reasonable odds - that Saturday's exertions have not taken the edge off Casablanca.
Bold Wongchoy was an effortless 1,600-metre winner for Tony Cruz on equitrack last time but the trip may test while Intermac Supreme has no worthwhile form on the surface or at the trip.
Sir Rodmor, on the evidence of two runs last season, looks hopeless particularly as he is facing this trip first-up.