Vase-bound Vengeance catches eye
The stars came out to play at Sha Tin yesterday morning, with Vengeance Of Rain heading a cast of three Group One winners in the opening heat of the all-weather trials.
Vengeance Of Rain trialled over 1,050 metres and while the distance was short of optimum for the Horse of the Year, it will serve its purpose to ready the gelding for his next assignment - the Group Three Centenary Vase over 2,000m at Sha Tin on February 4.
Vengeance Of Rain, handled by usual pilot Anthony Delpech, came home with a wet sail, hugging the rails to finish 11/4 lengths from winner Fifty Fifty in 1:02.4.
But chasing him home were two more heroes from top-level races in recent years, 2006 Horse of the Year Bullish Luck and last year's Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong Derby winner Vital King.
Bullish Luck's famous legs of steel have only recently been found to be mere flesh and bone after all, and he has had to overcome a suspensory ligament problem to work his way back into the game.
The eight-year-old was ridden by Marco Chui Kwan-lai and scouted wide without cover throughout, but that didn't stop him hitting the line with enthusiasm in the final 200m. Although he finished fourth, 13/4 lengths behind Vengeance Of Rain and three lengths from the winner, it was still a nice effort.
Working home for fifth, another three lengths behind Bullish Luck, was Vital King. The Paul O'Sullivan-trained five-year-old has been freshened up since his disappointing run in the Hong Kong Vase (2,400m).
In that race, Vital King went from bolting to beaten in a stride and was eased down to finish at the tail of the field. He later scoped with significant blood in his trachea - in other words a near bleed.
Brett Prebble balanced him near the rear of the field yesterday and allowed the bay to stay there until the 400m. Over the final stages, Vital King lengthened stride nicely and hit the line purposefully.
The problem for Vital King now will be a lack of opportunities. As a late-closing Derby winner, he needs every centimetre of 2,000m and may well require the 2,400m of the Champions & Chater to show his wares. And once he gets there, he'll have to deal with the likes of Viva Pataca and Vengeance Of Rain.
Fifty Fifty won the trial by a short head from Industrial Marvel, and the grand workhorse from the Caspar Fownes stable seemed to have some extra in reserve.
The gelding was ridden by Glen Boss and went keenly for most of the trip. But although the margin was small, there was only going to be one winner as the gap between the pair narrowed over the final 100m.
Fifty Fifty is capable between 1,000m and 1,400m, at either Sha Tin or Happy Valley and on firm tracks or something softer. He's been a great servant for the Fownes yard and is already a winner over the minimum trip at Happy Valley this season.