Marshall has happy reunion
By ROBIN PARKE
TOP Australian jockey John Marshall is back on board Champman River in today's featured Ewo Challenge Trophy at Sha Tin and trainer Brian Kan Ping-chee is certainly hoping for a successful reunion. So, too, is Marshall who last rode the horse back on November 6 when winning handily over 1,200 metres. Since then Champman River, upped in class, has run twice for Jeff Lloyd and Felix Coetzee, and finished out of the money on both occasions. Not that he was disgraced, as both runs were in quality company but Champman River, who has not run since being well beaten on New Year's Day behind Nitrogen, will find today's event a lot easier.
Champman River is one of four Class One horses involved in this 1,400-metre event, but he has been greatly favoured by the draw. Champman River will jump from the rails barrier, while interesting Irish import Accelerating, making his Hong Kong debut forGeoff Lane, has drawn the complete outside barrier in the 14-runner field.
Marshall, who has been riding a number of horses for former champion trainer Kan recently, said: ''I'm very pleased to be back on Champman River, he is very much a favourite of mine. ''The owner has been very loyal to me personally and I was delighted to get a couple of good wins out of Champman River early in the season. I have always had a lot of time for the horse because he is honest and does have plenty of ability. ''But he did get up quite high quite quickly and it has been harder for him.
Fortunately this race looks just a little easier so I really would like to think I will be somewhere there at the finish.'' The rails draw is perfect for Champman River who has bounced out smartly in the past and virtually made all. Alternatively, Marshall can elect to take a handy sit as there will be pace on in this event.
Accelerating could prove an interesting acquisition for Lane and comes from Ireland with a sizeable reputation. He raced there as Via Parigi for trainer Jim Bolger and there is one interesting form line of which Lane is certainly aware.
In his two-year-old year, Via Parigi started favourite in a Curragh maiden which was won by Joyeus Garde. He finished third with Heavily Armed, now with Lane, taking second place. In his three-year-old campaign, Via Parigi mixed it in good company and certainly has the right qualifications. But he has been well-used too, and comes from the stable of a top trainer - and they do not usually leave too much.
The other interesting Irish import here is Wangola, who was also trained by Bolger. Wangola has been with trainer David Hill for a year, but starts for the first time in Hong Kong today.
He trialled pleasingly at Happy Valley on Tuesday and Hill said: ''He has taken a long time to come right. I could do nothing with him early on so just decided to give him plenty of time.
''I have been working him the other way round over the past few months and he is really getting back into the swing of things. But he has been off the racecourse since 1992 so he is definitely going to be 'ring rusty'.
''I am looking forward to seeing him run but I don't expect a win out of him today. He will need the run after that amount of time away from the course. But this run should certainly bring him on,'' said Hill.
Patrick Biancone's Flirting Dancer was the Derby hope of the stable a few months back but those plans look a bit rich following a poor performance over 1,800 metres last time.
The French trainer has freshened him up and saw him win a good recent trial, suggesting he is ready to do something positive today.
Flirting Dancer reverts to this shorter trip and he looks to have an excellent chance of finishing in the money. Tony Cruz rides Lucky Optimists for brother Derek and if he found his best form he would also be a strong chance here. He is a strong courseand distance winner, is well-drawn and his work has picked up. There should be a shade of odds about the Bruce Hutchison-trained Fortune Basin, who came home very strongly last time but front-running Namjong had stolen the race.
That was over 1,200 metres and the Irish import does look well-suited by the extra 200 metres here. He will be ridden again by Darren Gauci and is worth considering for quinellas and tierces.
Wonderful Moment won last time out for Mick Dittman but it took plenty of effort from the legendary Australian rider to get him home - and this looks a lot harder.