Improved fitness makes Armada the one to beat

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 April, 2008, 12:00am

With a run under his belt, John Size's Armada has some unfinished business to complete in the Group Two Chairman's Trophy (1,600m) at Sha Tin as he takes the first step to re-establishing himself in the top flight.

Armada (Douglas Whyte) was at the peak of his powers in early 2007 with eight wins from 10 starts, before defeat at long odds-on by Good Ba Ba in this same race told Size something was wrong with the gelding.

Then followed a year away from the track, while Good Ba Ba took his place as Hong Kong's star miler and the vets tried to work out Armada's problem.

In the end, that investigation found nothing but dead ends. But Armada's eventual improvement in himself prompted Size to return him to training and the long road back to the top.

As yet, we don't know how far down that road Armada might be, and his effort in the Queen's Silver Jubilee first-up wasn't a great guide. Fresh and keen, Armada raced more freely, then he was badly blocked for much of the straight. When Whyte did get a chance to shake him up late in the race, the response was only lukewarm.

Today's race is another 200m and Armada may still be needing this race to get back towards his top, but he should be ready to become competitive again.

He should certainly get the right run to show something more like his old self, with Whyte likely to park him just behind the likely pacesetters, Hello Pretty (Brett Prebble), Helene Brilliant (Marco Chui Kwan-lai) and Down Town (Terry Wong Chi-wai).

Unless those pacemakers go crazy, an average tempo could see those forward of Armada being his toughest opponents.

Underrated Down Town will get the same sort of run he had in winning over the Sha Tin mile earlier in the term, while Helene Brilliant's last-start win signalled that he is sound enough to show something of what has long been expected of him in Group company.

Joyful Winner (Darren Beadman) will have plenty of admirers in the race and, with all eyes on Sacred Kingdom's unlucky run in the Queen's Silver Jubilee, many will have missed that he was almost as unlucky after cutting inside at the 450m to follow the hot favourite instead of Good Ba Ba.

His third was terrific, but there remains a question of whether he is quite as effective at the mile and barrier eight holds a few headaches, too.