City Of Troy makes big impression
Kindacross, Able Choice and Ample Gains filled the placings but the greater interest in the opening trial at Sha Tin yesterday came from the British private purchase City Of Troy, who worked home nicely into fifth position under the guidance of Shane Dye.
City Of Troy missed the start by a length and settled towards the rear, but started to travel keenly and worked his way to midfield at the half way mark.
Dye took all the inside options and allowed City Of Troy to finish the trial under his own steam, with the four-year-old ultimately coming home 41/4 lengths behind Kindacross.
City Of Troy cost former owners Michael Tabor and partners Euro310,000 (HK$3.15 million) as a yearling and looked an inspired purchase when he came out as a two-year-old and won at his first two starts for trainer Sir Michael Stoute.
At his third outing, the juvenile stepped up to Group Two company in the Royal Lodge Stakes at Newmarket and finished fourth, beaten 33/4 lengths as 11-8 favourite behind the John Gosden-trained Leo, earning a Racing Post rating of 100.
The Grand Lodge colt was then put away to see if he could mature into a classic contender but ultimately came up short.
He had just three runs as a three-year-old but, unlike so many private purchases that make their way to Hong Kong, his was an improving formline that ended up with a Racing Post 106 rating for his one length third in the Thoroughbred Stakes, a Listed race over a mile at the Goodwood festival in early August.
City Of Troy is the first foal of Azarena, a daughter of Woodman and a winner over 2,000m in France. Azarena is a half-sister to Sorcerer's Wit (winner at over a mile as a juvenile) and high-class US juvenile Point Spread, and she's from a daughter of dual Classic winner Mysterious.
City Of Troy had an official rating of 100 in England but will begin his local career on a mark of 89, with his new trainer being Michael Chang Chun-wai. The well-bred chestnut has been nominated for the Derby and it will be interesting to see how he progresses with this trial under his belt.
Kindacross, who is yet to win in 10 starts since arriving from New Zealand, made all in this trial and ultimately had a length to spare from the John Moore-trained Able Choice, handled by Christophe Soumillon.
Able Choice's last win was down the straight 1,000m course on January 7 last year, when handled by Soumillon. The Belgian ace understands exactly how to ride this ageing sprinter, who must be smothered away in a field for as long as possible and produced for one short, sharp finishing burst in the closing stages.
Ample Gains, handled by Howard Cheng Yue-tin, was a short head away third after following the leaders throughout. The Danehill gelding kept on very well under a hold from Cheng and could have finished closer had his rider chosen to do so.
The other good performance from the trial was the Paul O'Sullivan-trained Good Nature, handled by Danny Nikolic, who finished sixth.
The second trial was won by Bliss Star, who is now with the David Hall string and was ridden by Brett Prebble. Bliss Star's time of 1:01.5 was a fraction slower than Kindacross, but his final split of 23.0 seconds was 0.2 seconds slicker.
Bliss Star won a race as a two-year-old on yielding ground in Adelaide but was also second in the Group Two Breeders' Stakes over 1,200m.
The Flying Spur gelding had a winless three-year-old campaign in Hong Kong but did show a glimpse of form in March last year when fourth to Lucky Diamond, Award and Supreme Gains in a Class Three race over 1,600m.
It may be significant that this race was also decided on yielding ground, as was his win in Adelaide at Cheltenham Park, while this impressive trial win was achieved on the all-weather track, where so many soft-ground horses are well suited.
Bliss Star led throughout and never came off the bridle, ultimately scoring by three-quarters of a length from the hard-ridden Flaming Sun (Felix Coetzee) and the veteran Dashing Champion (Paul Lo Pak-hin).