Some classic runners not so Brilliant

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 March, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 March, 2006, 12:00am

As positive as we try to be about it, the 2006 Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong Derby has been a victory for quantity, whether or not the quality rises to the surface over time.

Club officials were quick to argue at last week's field selection function that the Derby this year does not have the star quality of some recent Derbys only because the participants are mostly lightly raced without having had the chance to reach any great heights.

While there is something to that argument - in the case of Hello Pretty in particular - lightly raced horses have tended to make up the fields for the Derby every recent year, but it hasn't stopped a number of the runners from having already shown themselves as high class pre-Derby Day.

Certainly, if the amount of racing undertaken were the main requirement for improvement in performance then we can expect Brilliant One to have quite a few races in the future.

Any punter interested enough to go to Sha Tin early last Sunday to see the two-start Derby runner warm up might have come away with the impression that with a few gallops and a decent pair of Nikes, he himself might be a worthy Derby runner if the field fell short.

Rarely does one see a Class Five horse so clearly towel an alleged Derby horse as Fujian Prince did Brilliant One.

Come to think of it, Fujian Prince hasn't had that much racing himself, perhaps the handicapper has been remiss dropping him so quickly - he hasn't had the chance to perform yet. Put in context, Brilliant One has been savaged in two local starts, suggesting he has not yet come to himself in the new environment, but does that entitle him to a place in the Derby where his very presence could cost a legitimate runner his chance?

Likewise, Matiri King.

Clearly a horse with some staying ability, he is just as clearly a horse which has been beset by health or soundness issues in Hong Kong, and thus unable to lift himself above the current 75 rating he holds.

He may go on to better things - or not - but this Sunday, he might as well go around covered by brushwood since he looks more of a hurdle for the real chances than a prospect himself.

Connections of more legitimate underdog candidates like Clean Sweep and Hawkes Bay have bypassed their 'chance' at the Derby, preferring to take a different path rather than tackle the race just because they could.

Owners are paying the bills - fair enough if they want to fill up the field in the Derby for reasons of prestige when they have no earthly chance.

But if the Jockey Club was to exclude them on the basis of wanting 'quality not quantity', it would seem more prudent from its own point of view.

Yes, it has asked owners to go out and spend money on higher-grade imports, and those owners probably expect to be able to run in the Derby if there's room.

But the owners of legitimate runners have spent the money too, and they are entitled to feel more than a little unhappy if their own expensive purchases are hampered by no-hopers in their pursuit of the same, more attainable goal.