Champions Gallery puts on a dazzling display in trials
The trainers' syndicate concept, introduced by the Jockey Club earlier this year, should meet with an early success judging by the performance of Champions Gallery in the turf trial over 1,600 metres yesterday morning at Sha Tin.
Champions Gallery, ridden by Hong Kong Mile-winning jockey Olivier Doleuze, cleared out to make a one-act affair of the trial, skipping home his last 400m in 23.8 seconds to win by five lengths from the John Size-trained Plastic Polymer.
It couldn't be said that Champions Gallery was opened right up by Doleuze, because the flamboyant Frenchman barely moved a muscle as this well-bred galloper raced away over the final 200m.
Champions Galley is a three-year-old by the Danehill stallion Dansili, who hit big time this year as the sire of upset Arc de Triomphe winner Rail Link. The colt gets plenty of strength from the female side of his pedigree, too, as dam Pure is a sister to the 1992 Epsom Oaks heroine User Friendly, the best three-year-old staying filly of her generation.
The Andreas Schutz Trainer Syndicate is the registered owner of Champions Galley, who won three races from nine starts during his time with David Elsworth in Britain.
Early in the season, Champions Gallery was looking a bit pedestrian on softer ground but once summer arrived and tracks firmed up, he was a horse transformed.
Champions Gallery won the Cathay Pacific 60th Anniversary Handicap at Ascot on King George day on July 30 and Racing Post (UK) credited him with a rating of 104 for that win.
The three-year-old was then beaten on good-to-soft ground at Salisbury in mid-August before bouncing back to win a heritage handicap over 2,000m at Beverley at his last run prior to export. Racing Post marked this performance as a 104.
'A cracking turnout for a handicap which would have graced York last week,' was how the Post analyst described the race, 'with several progressive and potentially very useful three-year-olds in the line-up. They went a good gallop - three of the first four came from off the pace - and the form is likely to work out.
'He had looked good in winning at Ascot earlier in the season, had an excuse for his subsequent Salisbury flop in a modest gallop and showed here he is a three-year-old on the up, challenging wide in the straight, leading over a furlong out and holding on to allay fears that he does not handle a soft surface. This also proved he stays 2,000 metres.'
Champions Gallery comes into Hong Kong with a very fair rating of 87 and should have little trouble landing a Class Two once Schutz declares he's ready to go to the races, before progressing to better-class events.
The third trial over 1,000m on turf was taken out narrowly, but impressively, by Pacific Advantage, prepared by Sean Woods and handled by Douglas Whyte.
Pacific Advantage had a quieter trial at Happy Valley on November 18, when ridden by Danny Nikolic, but was impressive there, too, even though beaten 41/3 lengths into fifth place.
On this occasion, this stylish youngster bounced straight into the lead and Whyte never let him off the bridle at any stage. Although his time of 58.5 seconds was 0.6 seconds outside the best of the morning, he did it very stylishly and gave the impression there was more petrol in the tank had Whyte chosen to give him a squeeze.
Pacific Advantage, an Irish-bred son of Tiber's sire Titus Livius, had three starts in England. He was beaten a head on debut at Musselburgh before breaking through by a narrow margin in a maiden at Nottingham.
But it was at his third start that the youngster showed what he was made of, clearing out to score by five lengths over five furlongs at Hamilton on July 14.