Northern looks solid as ever after a deserved break
Smart three-year-old Northern Hero showed the benefit of patience when he returned to competition at Sha Tin yesterday and posted a sound performance to win the opening barrier trial on the all-weather track.
Northern Hero, trained by Tony Millard, raced handy to the speed throughout before challenging at the 300 metres and forging clear. It was left to the stayer Saturn to run home late and ultimately reduce the margin to a length.
Northern Hero has raced just three times this season and Millard has judiciously spaced his races. The Anabaa gelding won on international day on December 10 before finishing fourth on February 4.
Australian-bred Northern Hero is now in the second half of his three-year-old season and should therefore be making rapid improvement as the term wears on.
Northern Hero also had a change of rider here, with Manoel Nunes taking over from Felix Coetzee, who has ridden the gelding in each of his three runs this term.
Quality stayer Saturn may still provide a dividend in the big staying races at the back end of the season, judging by his excellent effort in finishing second.
Saturn, handled by Brett Prebble, raced around midfield, some six lengths off the speed, but threaded his way between runners on the home turn. At the 150m, Saturn was still some four lengths behind Northern Hero but opened up very nicely in the final stages.
Saturn went well in his early lead-up races and finished second in his primary target race, the Group Two International Cup Trial over 2,000m on November 12.
At his only subsequent start, Saturn was disappointing in the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Vase, won by visiting British stayer Collier Hill. The Marju gelding has been freshened up since failing at Sha Tin on January 20 and the break seems to have done him the world of good.
Kingsgate Glory, a stablemate of Northern Hero, won the second all-weather trial by a short head from hard-ridden Sanziro (Prebble) but third placed Thunder Dancing (Danny Nikolic) was the one that most caught the eye, travelling strongly on the bridle throughout.
Unraced three-year-old Mount Surplus (Nikolic) won the first of the heats over 800m down the straight course, defeating Douglas Whyte's mount Happy Energy by a length.
Mount Surplus, trained by Francis Lui Kin-wai, is a three-year-old by Towkay, the New Zealand-based stallion that is making waves through the deeds of his high-class son Armada.