Viva Pataca had lots of unspent petrol left in tank

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 March, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 29 March, 2006, 12:00am

Notwithstanding the undoubted promise of Viva Pataca, this year's Derby ultimately measured as one would have expected - the lowest in recent years.

Viva Pataca's winning performance has measured on a par with Elegant Fashion's 2003 triumph but well below the wins of Olympic Express (2002), Lucky Owners (2004) and Vengeance Of Rain last year.

However, despite the fact that Viva Pataca's win measures as 11/2 lengths inferior to the 120 rating posted by Vengeance Of Rain 12 months earlier, the John Moore-trained galloper has enormous upside.

Firstly, Viva Pataca has only done what he had to do to win the Derby.

Even the most conservative analyst would agree there was plenty of unspent petrol left in the tank at the end of the race.

Secondly, the Marju gelding has done everything to date on raw ability. With five weeks having elapsed since his last race, Moore had scarcely screwed the gelding right down for one ultimate peak performance.

And finally, we have the words of both Moore and jockey Christophe Soumillon echoing in our heads - that this horse is only 70 per cent there at the moment. An experienced horseman can see the physical immaturity that's still apparent about this four-year-old and wonder how good he might become when he finally furnishes. Soumillon's ride was absolute magical. It's been said before, but this guy has genuine star quality, and his Derby-winning ride simply underlined his claims to be one of the world's best. He has loads of flair and dash, and a sense of daring that borders on total fearlessness, not to mention a level self confidence that very few jockeys ever get to experience.

The Jockey Club couldn't have got a better deal, with Viva Pataca's owner Stanley Ho Hung-sun jetting Soumillon in for the meeting, without it costing the club a single cent. The ultimate showman turned up free of charge - how good a deal was that? The crowd love Soumillon and he certainly didn't let them down.

The win was also a positive for the balance of power between the breeding industries of the northern and southern hemispheres, for which Hong Kong is the most brutal proving ground.

Although the European-bred gallopers Olympic Express and Precision dominated the Derby four years ago before progressing to international glory the following December, the three subsequent Derby editions were claimed by horses bred in Australia or New Zealand.

In the meantime, a number of expensive English, Irish and French horses have disappointed, and that failure to translate their potential into Hong Kong performance undoubtedly accounted for the drop off in the numbers of northern hemisphere private purchases over the past 12 months.

Viva Pataca has done his bit to restore the faith. Let's now hope the owners can once again stock up and ensure that the drop in class of this year's Derby field - where the mean rating of the 14 runners fell a staggering 10 rating points year on year - is simply a one-off glitch.