Time has come for Birdie to show he's the real deal
A step up in distance looks just what the doctor ordered for the Caspar Fownes-trained Green Birdie as he tackles today's Group Three National Day Cup at Sha Tin to prove that he is the real deal.
With regular pilot Shane Dye sidelined with a rib injury, Glen Boss will take over the hot seat on a day the gelding must put up or shut up if he is to achieve what is widely expected of him.
Fownes says Green Birdie will make his way up the ratings to 120 this season, so off a mark of 108 the four-year-old won't find a better opportunity to land a good race and the move to 1,400m for the first time looks the right one.
Green Birdie has not failed to run well every time after giving big starts in his races but he has won just once at Happy Valley.
First-up, he had plenty of supporters in the Chief Executive's Cup (1,200m) but got back to near last - ahead of only Able Prince who stood at the start - in a race fought out by the first three in running.
Green Birdie ran by most of the field, cut Down Town out of third to Sunny Power and did best of the off pace horses.
But coming from last in Premier class races is not a recipe for frequent success and backers will be hoping that this trip might enable Green Birdie to be slightly closer than in the past without having to be bustled, so his brilliant finishing burst will have him gathering up the leaders instead of arriving when it's all over.
Incidentally, Boss was the inaugural winner of the National Day Cup in 1999 in his previous stint in Hong Kong - taking the then 1,800m feature on Score at 45-1 in a boilover for retired trainer Alex Wong Siu-tan.
Boss, Fownes and Birdie will be out to break Howard Cheng Yue-tin's grip on the National Day Cup in recent years, the local rider having won his past three rides in the race on Prime Witness (2003), Fokine (2005) and Flaming Lamborgini (2006).
His lightweight mount, Tiber is not beyond causing an upset, but the main dangers to Green Birdie look Pocket Money (Felix Coetzee) and Egyptian Ra (Eric Saint-Martin).
Pocket Money's form since joining John Size last season reads eight starts for three wins and two seconds. He failed to land a cheque only when he failed to handle the wet ground in his last run of last season but is batting two wins from two this term.