Able Prince throws down the gauntlet to his Vase rivals
The young upstarts will not have the HSBC Premier Sha Tin Vase to themselves next Thursday, as the seasoned hand Able Prince showed in winning a barrier trial on the all-weather track at headquarters yesterday.
Trainer John Moore has held the 'fresh-is-best' sprinter together for far longer this term and certainly paid the expenses for owner Cornel Li Fook-kwan with his narrow win over Down Town in the Cathay Pacific International Sprint Trial (1,000m) in November.
Able Prince has raced only three times since then, but was taken beyond his comfort zone last start and failed dismally in the Group One Queen's Silver Jubilee Cup over 1,400m on April 9.
In yesterday's trial over 1,050m, Able Prince bounced straight to the front and travelled comfortably for Eric Saint-Martin. The six-year-old was never let go in the final stages and although the margins were small at the finish, Able Prince did just enough to prevail, while giving the impression there was much more there if asked.
Given his relative position in the ratings, the performance of Pickett - rated 70, some 46 pounds below Able Prince in the handicap - was excellent.
The British-bred gelding followed Able Prince throughout and kept on well under a hold for Olivier Doleuze, going down by a mere short head.
However, the run of the trial was undoubtedly Green Birdie, the exciting young Australian import who is also headed towards the Sha Tin Vase.
Green Birdie, an impressive last-start winner at Happy Valley, again settled out the back but virtually towed jockey Shane Dye through the field around the circle.
In the straight, Dye simply had to steer Green Birdie into the appropriate gaps and the Catbird three-year-old did the rest, lengthening out beautifully in the final stages. He finished third, with the margins being by a head.
Remembering how strongly the all-weather track favoured leaders in the three races on Saturday, and how the one-two in this trial were also in those positions throughout, Green Birdie's performance is further amplified.
David Hall offered a sneak preview of So Shun's Sandown Guinneas (Gr 2) winner Sender in the second trial over 800m.
Under his new name of Cute Horse, the three-year-old won the dash down the straight on turf and did it well for jockey Brett Prebble.
The son of Cambridge Stud stallion Keeper was a little erratic in the early to middle stages but applied himself nicely in the final 200m and won under a hold from the Australian horseman.
Runner-up Perfect Spot, an unraced American-bred four-year-old by King's Best, is from the stable of Paul O'Sullivan.
Perfect Spot trialled twice last year and, while not disgraced, certainly didn't look ready to offer too many threats.
But with a bit more time, the gelding has matured enough to not only show early speed but to keep on nicely under a quiet Danny Nikolic ride, going down in a photo.
Cute Horse and Perfect Spot cleared out in this trial, clocking 47.2 seconds and pulling a margin of 21/4 lengths on third placed Zephyrus, ridden by Anthony Delpech for Tony Millard.