Pataca stamps his authority for classic
Viva Pataca consolidated his position as favourite for next Sunday's Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong Derby with a brilliant trial win at Sha Tin yesterday morning.
With Eric Saint-Martin keeping the saddle warm for Christophe Soumillon, Viva Pataca rounded up his rivals in the opening heat over 1,050 metres and raced away with a minimum of effort from the four-year-old and absolutely none from the jockey.
The performance was exemplary as Saint-Martin had tracked very wide on the circle, keeping the expensive British private purchase well and truly out of potential trouble. Yet despite the amount of extra ground he had covered, Viva Pataca simply loped past Group One winner Figures (Glyn Schofield) in the final 200m to score by two lengths.
The time of 1:03.0 was equal fastest of the morning, but the leader-to-winner sectional times were quickest among the three heats - the last 600m in 35.5 seconds, with 23.7 for the last 400m and 11.59 for the ultimate 200m.
Trainer John Moore would have undoubtedly been delighted with the gelding's progress, as well as the quality of this performance, and it seems he'll be spot on for the Derby on March 26.
Figures bounced straight to the front but Schofield was in no hurry to carve out time. In fact, the sectional time for the first 450m of this heat was the slowest of the morning.
However, the 2004 Champions Mile hero quickened up after passing the 600m and then kept on well.
Able One, another member of the white-hot Moore team, went superbly for Nick Ryan in finishing third. The Cape Cross gelding made his run with Viva Pataca but while Saint-Martin allowed his mount to extend to the line, Ryan took it quietly on the last-start Class Three winner.
Just behind them in fourth placed was Sing Fay Fay, handled by Thomas Yeung Kai-tong. Sing Fay Fay was recently transferred to Yeung's allocated trainer, Tony Millard, and went fairly in a one-paced effort once off the bridle.
Millard took the second heat when Calcando (Douglas Whyte) scored a soft win in 1:03.6 - the slowest time of the morning.
The Cape Cross youngster was a stylish winner on his return to racing and has done well in the interim, judging by the authority of this display. Millard's older sprinter Brains Trust finished third, beaten 21/4 lengths, under the guidance of Yeung.
Trainer Andy Leung Ting-wah was forced to trial Flying Sprinter after the Our Maizcay six-year-old finished tailed-off last in a race over 1,650m at Happy Valley on March 1. His trial effort for fourth was respectable after coursing wide throughout and not being pushed out by jockey Simon Yim Hing-keung.
Winning Champ made a one-act affair in the third heat but must have given trainer Almond Lee Yee-tat some concerns with his fierce attitude to racing.
Winning Champ, handled by stable jockey Gerald Mosse, grabbed the bit and went out much harder than the Frenchman appeared to want. They were some eight lengths clear at the 500m and still held an advantage of 41/2 lengths when the judge called a halt.
Millard's Taiji Spirit, handled by Yeung, worked home nicely for second while Excellent Partners, now with David Hall, was given a quiet time by Robbie Fradd to finish third.
HORSE TO FOLLOW:
Viva Pataca, Able One, Calcando.