Ng and Lee's newcomers dominate trials
The numbers may have been light on but winners will still emerge from yesterday's barrier trials at Sha Tin, where local trainers Peter Ng Bik-kuen and Almond Lee Yee-tat stole the show with newcomers.
Ng won the second trial over 800 metres on the turf with unraced three-year-old Grand General, with the brown gelding scoring a soft win by a neck from Master Cristo (Paul Lo Pak-hin) and clocking 46.8 seconds.
Lee won the following heat, also over 800m, with his ghostly-grey four-year-old Guan Dao, who led throughout under Alex Lai Hoi-wing to score by 11/2 lengths in 46.4 seconds.
Guan Dao formerly raced in West Australia as Starofken, and was prepared by Neville Parnham. The Kendel Star gelding raced seven times in Perth for four wins, including two from two as a spring three-year-old.
Officially a grey, but already near white, Guan Dao has been purchased by the Almond Lee Trainer Syndicate (2006-07) but the group experienced a setback early in his current preparation, with the club's veterinary database showing Guan Dao to have been lame in early September.
However, there was no sign of anything ailing the gelding yesterday. He sailed along at the head off affairs and won under a nice hold from Lai, hitting the line with a good, clean action as well as plenty of enthusiasm.
Grand General, by contrast, has never raced and arrives with the standard southern hemisphere-bred first-starter rating of 52.
He's by the former Coolmore shuttler Perugino, a three-quarter brother to Sadler's Wells and Fairy King but a well beaten third to those good sires in terms of his merit as a sire.
Nevertheless, Perugino has made a mark at stud and is perhaps best known as the sire of top-class sprinter-miler Testa Rossa, a racing contemporary of Redoute's Choice and now also a successful sire in Australia.
Grand General has a nice multi-purpose pedigree as he is out of Snow Angel, a daughter of the great Zabeel. Interestingly, this is the Vengeance Of Rain cross in reverse (Vengeance is by Zabeel out of a Danzig granddaughter; Grand General is by a Danzig grandson from a Zabeel mare).
Grand General was slow to begin for Zac Purton, but gathered speed quickly to sit right behind playmakers Master Cristo and Lucky Red.
When Purton let out and extra centimetre of rein, the three-year-old bounded through on Master Cristo's inside and went to the line strongly on the bridle to score.
Master Cristo gives the Grand General camp a good guide as he's a proven horse from New Zealand, a son of former top British juvenile Minardi.
Master Cristo, a four-year-old, had eight starts there for trainer Richard Yuill winning two, both narrowly, and achieving three other minor placings. He arrives here on a Jockey Club rating of 71, which places him in the middle of Class Three.