Throw of the dice works just as well as 'superior judgment'
The win of Kildare in the Bauhinia Sprint last weekend was more than a step up for an exciting young sprinter or a further shot in the arm for the fortunes of trainer Derek Cruz.
It was also a face-saving victory for a concept which looked flawed to begin with and has been moderate in the practice - trainers' syndicates.
Kildare did a good job to score the first Group win for both himself and this questionable collection of specially selected horses and, while he now faces a sterner test in the Centenary Sprint Cup, he has done the job he was supposed to do and that he at least looked capable of doing. He looked a serious young horse winning his maiden race in New Zealand, a horse who could go to some heights, a smart buy.
It would be easy to suggest this is an observation with the benefit of hindsight, that Kildare has only become a smart purchase now - and, granted, the path from promising to successful is not a certain one - but he did at least promise plenty before he was acquired. Many trainers' syndicate horses did not look smart buys off what they had done and some looked downright woeful.
The Jockey Club's sale and the strangely revisited subscription griffins were attempts by the club to employ what it saw as its superior judgment and circumvent the possibility that trainers' self interest might at times prevail over genuine attempts to import horses with a future. The trainers' syndicates went the other way - assuming trainers would bring what was assumed to be their superior judgment to bear and try harder to get the right horse for syndicates that would bear their names.
The International Sale has had its ups and downs but, credit where credit is due, some serious victories in top-class horses like Good Ba Ba, The Duke, Scintillation and others.
Subscription griffins, on the other hand, are looking a disaster - as many have been retired as have raced and none has looked much good so far - while the trainers' syndicates are looking a less-said-the-better proposition for all but a handful of trainers.
So much for superior judgment.
What has been bypassed during the last couple of boom years, when obscene profits from the International Sale might have been used more constructively than putting on silly six-horse races for the same animals over and over, is the chance to improve the mechanisms available for acquiring horses through the club or its trainers and try to put a few more percentage points in the favour of Hong Kong racing.
As we have said before, the International Sale wasn't going to improve simply by buying babies that cost more.
What might have been feasible was to buy more of the same kinds of yearlings, have them more thoroughly tried and lesser types, who did not come on for whatever reason, discarded rather than sold here, and a core of both raced and unraced runners with known ability and the right temperament then put up for processes like the sale, subscription griffins or trainers' syndicates. With the economic downturn, that chance has been lost and better quality remains an occasional strike of lightning.