Ng banking on Durban Demon's magic

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 25 June, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 25 June, 2006, 12:00am

Douglas Whyte may have to weave his own special brand of magic to overcome barrier 14 but assuming he can do so, Active Valour is a value play to topple short-priced favourite Noble Conqueror in the fifth event at Sha Tin this afternoon.

It's also an important occasion for trainer Peter Ng Bik-kuen, as he finds himself in unfamiliar territory - having yet to pass the Jockey Club's minimum performance criteria for trainers.

Ng has been a consistent but underrated trainer since gaining his licence in 1983. But this is the first time he's been in danger of not satisfying the 13-win clause set by the club to make Hong Kong racing professionals more accountable. Ng is currently poised on 12 and a win by Active Valour will see him safely over the threshold.

Active Valour, a three-year-old by the Danehill stallion Dangerous, has only raced five times and is yet to break through, but has promised much with runner-up efforts at his last two starts. The wide alley is the big worry and is definitely the key factor in play on overnight markets, where Active Valour is $66 second favourite to last-start victor Noble Conqueror ($22).

While Brett Prebble has none of Whyte's barrier worries, having drawn the inside alley, he may have some concerns of a different kind as Noble Conqueror has a significant gear change this time.

Noble Conqueror had blinkers on when he won a trial well, beating Natural Blitz, and then did not wear them when beaten on debut. Trainer Caspar Fownes put the equipment back on for the gelding's second start, which resulted in a comprehensive win on June 7, but now they have been taken off again.

Noble Conqueror got himself excited and hot at Happy Valley before his win, and missed the start by two lengths. Fownes is probably more concerned at getting him to relax properly and the removal of the blinkers is a move towards that goal.