Long March set to give run for money
LONG MARCH (Next Best) looks one of the best value bets of the night in the Hong Kong University Alumni Association Challenge Cup, the feature event on the Happy Valley grass programme.
Long March caught the eye last season when staying on strongly to be fourth to Lionheart over an inadequate 1,400 metres at Sha Tin, despite racing very wide all the way from a poor draw.
This season he has picked up with each and every run, especially as he has been pushed up in distance.
On the bare form he has a little to find with the likes of Miss Piggy and Muster Mark in tonight's cup race but he could have the most scope for improvement and is also likely to start at better odds.
At this time of year, with all those Christmas bills looming, it is probably more sensible to have a little on something at good odds than risk losing a lot on a short-priced favourite.
Last time out Long March ran a most creditable sixth of 14 to Planet over 1,800 metres at Sha Tin with Miss Piggy and Muster Mark about a length in front.
But a pre-race paddock inspection appeared to show that they had a bit of a fitness advantage over Long March, who is now a couple of pounds better off with Miss Piggy and a pound better off with Muster Mark.
That may not sound very much but if it comes to a driving finish - and so many races here are setttled by margins which translate to less than a pound - a pound or two either way can be vital.
Long March has worked well since his sixth to Planet, form which is working out well with the subsequent success of seventh-placed Kowloon Might and the good run from second-home Gay Pegasus II on Saturday night.
The other thing about Long March is that he is trained by Peter Tse Yan-sid who is not hard on his horses at trackwork, so it would be quite natural for Long March to progress in terms of fitness from his last start.
Bruce Hutchison's Muster Mark could well give Long March most to do and is likely to be a considerable danger, especially with Mick Kinane in the saddle.
Last time out Muster Mark looked a bit unlucky behind Planet as he had no racing room on the inside before staying on hand over fist to be a good fourth.
With a clear run jockey Jeff Lloyd thought he would have won. That looked a rather optimistic assessment but the general point remains that Muster Mark was trapped on the far rail and, with any luck in running, would probably have finished in front of Miss Piggy.
Since then Muster Mark has been noted putting in a couple of really excellent gallops and it is tempting to suggest that he is going even better than before.
The only drawback is that he is likely to be at fairly short odds and could be a better wager through the quinella pool for those out there searching for that bit of Christmas value.
Kinane appears to have another top ride in the shape of Shanghai Triumph for his in-form trainer David Oughton in the night's opening event.
Shanghai Triumph is weighted to reverse running over the Happy Valley mile with Able Ride from last season on three pounds better terms for a head.
He finished strongly in seventh behind King Spot over a mile at Sha Tin and will be all the better for the move to 1,800 metres tonight.
He has also done a fair bit of work since and should be that much fitter.
It could well pay to keep Geoff Lane's Native Beauty safe in the quinella and tierce for this event as she ran well for a long way last time out off a very light preparation.
Tony Cruz takes over from the apprentice jockey who rode her last time and that looks a highly significant riding change.
Today's Special ran well for a long way in better company last time out and looks another threat to Shanghai Triumph.