Moore can cash in again
By ROBIN PARKE
TRAINER John Moore literally copped the cash with a horse of that name last Sunday and he could do it again in the Police Cup at Sha Tin tonight - if topweight Nervous Witness defies a heavy impost.
Joint champion trainer Moore and Ivan Allan are involved in a major battle for this year's title - even at this relatively early stage - and the former Singapore-based mentor is well represented in tonight's featured event by All Thrills.
Nervous Witness is on a hat-trick of victories tonight and that's not often achieved in Hong Kong where the rigorous classification system and attendant handicapping usually thwarts such ambitions.
But Nervous Witness has unquestionably rediscovered his best form and there are grounds to believe that he has not finished yet.
He comes back to Sha Tin and the ideal 1,400-metre trip after winning over a mile on equitrack last time against Evasive Tactic who has since gone on to frank that form.
That run really showed that Nervous Witness, in the past a winner over Carry On Winning when that horse was at his peak, was absolutely back on top. It was a victory of real authority on a surface that was obviously testing.
Before that win he got the better of Sure Win King in fairly decisive fashion over 1,650 metres at Happy Valley - a win that regular rider John Marshall enthused over.
''There were no excuses at all for the other one. We won fair and square and I was delighted with Nervous Witness. He was really getting right back to his best form.
''And, frankly, I did not think that Sure Win King was as good on the night as they were all making out. He was never going to beat us,'' said Marshall.
But it looks almost certain that Sure Win King will start a short-priced favourite to lift the Police Cup, just as he did when bidding for the Royal Hong Kong Golf Club Challenge Cup last time out. The trophy at the Valley was presented by the Princess Royal.
And certainly the weights are strongly in favour of Sure Win King. When beaten by Nervous Witness at Happy Valley, he was giving his conqueror three pounds. Tonight topweight Nervous Witness concedes 10lbs, a massive turnaround for a one-length margin.
It is a daunting task for Nervous Witness but there is firm evidence to support the belief that the horse is better now than he was when winning at Happy Valley.
Conversely, there are no real guarantees about Sure Win King who looked a little exposed at the Valley. This was meant to be his race and he had absolutely no answers.
It is worth noting, too, that there is a school of thought which believes the progeny of the good New Zealand sire, Straight Strike, tend to strike in their first two or possibly three runs. After that they lose the thread somewhat and have to be patiently brought back.
Nervous Witness has always looked an exciting horse when fully on song and, whatever happens tonight, he should be involved in the finish.
It would continue the staggering run of success enjoyed by Portuguese owners Archie da Silva, who races Nervous Witness and Clever Witness, and close friend Gabriel D'Azedo, who has Cheguei and Jogador.
Since moving to Moore at the end of last season, they have won half a dozen races between them.
But Silva was out of luck last week when Clever Witness, a nice type, bled when running in the seventh event on International Races day.
While it does not necessarily get down to just Nervous Witness and Sure Win King for tonight's feature event, they do tend to stand out in the full field of 14.
But All Thrills could definitely take a hand in it.
He ran no sort of race last time when on the Happy Valley equitrack because he simply could not handle the surface. That certainly should not be held against this handy young horse and the return to 1,400 metres at Sha Tin will certainly suit him.
Champion jockey Basil Marcus takes the ride and, on the strength of his late season form last year plus his early win over the longer Valley sprint, All Thrills is a quinella and tierce proposition.
Pearl Of India wasn't that far away on his seasonal debut under Dave Penna and has the services of British international visitor Alan Munro tonight. He has drawn unfavourably, however, in barrier 11 and might be a modest tierce chance at best.
Northern Fire Ball remains at this shorter trip although he has always given the distinct impression - and shown form - that he is better over longer. Trainer Wong Tang-ping has called on Walter Swinburn for the ride tonight.
And Neville Begg has again sought out Mick Kinane, who won the International Bowl on Winning Partners last Sunday.
The record-breaking Irish champion will partner Star Of Lihlin who did not run out a strong Valley mile last time and will be much better off over this trip tonight. Rain would also help.