Fifty Fifty finds his old form
Caspar Fownes is one of the trainers with the demonstrated ability to get his horses performing in the early part of the season and a stable stalwart, Fifty Fifty, certainly showcased his form in the barrier trials at Sha Tin last Saturday night.
The near-black gelding had been rather off his game in the second half of last season but there was no sign of that form slump in the turf trial over 1,000 metres, in which he gave jockey Danny Nikolic an easy ride.
Fifty Fifty ultimately won the trial by a soft length from Pickett, who is now trained by Michael Chang Chun-wai.
The balance of the field was four lengths further back, headed by Floral Prince, Amo and the talented Supreme Gains.
Although Fifty Fifty normally takes a handy position in his races, he was feeling so good on Saturday night that he bounced straight to the front without any real urging from Nikolic.
Significantly, his action was 100 per cent sound, which wasn't always the case last term.
The other impressive triallist at the turf heats was Century Super Star, prepared by freshman trainer Andreas Schutz.
The maiden galloper was handled by Olivier Doleuze and showed a surprising turn of foot to come from about four lengths off the speed and win the trial comfortably, running a very fast personal last 400m split.
Significantly, from an analyst's point of view, the spread of margins supported the times, with third-placed Celebration heading the beaten division some 51/2 lengths behind the hard-ridden runner-up Island Speed. Tony Cruz would no doubt have been pleased with the August 25 trial performances of Regency Horse and Fokine, who are two of his four representatives in today's feature race, the Chief Executive's Cup (race four).
The consistent gallopers ran first and second respectively, with the great Silent Witness third, in the opening trial of the season at Sha Tin.
Regency Horse won the heat by a neck from Fokine, with Eric Saint-Martin sitting very quietly against Fokine. There was real merit in the performance of both horses. The jury is still out about the performance of Silent Witness. The positive was that the champ bounced out with much of his former enthusiasm and led comfortably. However, in the final stages, it was apparent to all that both Regency Horse and Fokine were travelling much better.
This could well be a mere fitness factor. The trial was over 1,200m, not 1,050m, and Silent Witness is not scheduled to race until three weeks after his stablemates.
Silent Witness is also a very gross animal and he seemed to 'blow out' in the final 200m.