Collection has pedigree to follow in Mascot's footsteps

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 22 March, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 22 March, 2009, 12:00am

Collection has taken an extraordinary journey, from a virtual unknown just weeks ago to favourite for our most valuable domestic race, and he should give some proper substance to the hype in today's HK$16 million Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong Derby.

Collection will start at a short quote, but if you're inclined towards favourites, the Derby is the race in which to play them, with 12 having arrived from the past 18 runnings of the classic.

You don't have to look far back in history to find a perfect parallel to Collection. In fact, the most recent Derby hero, Helene Mascot, is almost a 'twin' in terms of pedigree and form, with each being by the same sire - the mighty Peintre Celebre - and impressive Listed winners in England as three-year-olds before their sales to Hong Kong.

When Helene Mascot won last year we declared it to be the 'Derby of the Decade' in terms of high-rating performances and chances are that Collection won't be far behind him, if at all.

This Derby was looking an even, competitive race until Collection came along and smacked a quality field by 41/4 lengths two weeks ago. He shouldered topweight of 132 pounds and accelerated in the manner of a top-class animal. Most rivals had their confidence seriously shaken by his display of awesome superiority, and it now remains for the facts and logic to play out on turf this afternoon.

As we saw last week when three odds-on favourites crashed, including champion Good Ba Ba, quality credentials are one thing but getting your number in the frame can be something else again. However, on the component logic of the game, it's impossible to tip against Collection, with the four-year-old having the quality Group One personnel behind him of John Moore and Darren Beadman.

If there is a surprise, Almond Lee Yee-tat and Brett Prebble might spring it with Roma Pegasus. This Australian PP had solid form in Sydney, including good performances just behind the placegetters in the Randwick Guineas (1,600m) and the Rosehill Guineas at 2,000m.

From barrier 13, the bay will be ridden a stayer's race by Prebble, and he has formed a nice base with decent performances in the Classic Mile (unlucky) and Derby Trial. He will be switched off early and should come home powerfully late.

Thumbs Up is a quality galloper, a Group One winner already and looking like he'll relish the 2,000m. He also has the presence in the saddle of the daring Christophe Soumillon, who set this race alight three years ago when he sliced through the middle of his rivals in cavalier fashion on Moore's hot favourite Viva Pataca.

Trainer Danny Shum Chap-shing has been at pains to point out that Thumbs Up may have been short of his best for the Derby Trial, but the Derby itself has been the primary goal. On trackwork and trials, there is little doubt Shum has got it right because Thumbs Up has been an improver in everything he has done lately.

Lee and Shum are relative newcomers to the training business but have been a very real part of previous Derby successes, Lee as assistant trainer to David Hayes for Elegant Fashion (2003) and Shum as assistant trainer to the mercurial Ivan Allan with Olympic Express one year earlier.

There look to be only two other live winning chances: Derby Trial hero Unique Jewellery (Olivier Doleuze) and Paul O'Sullivan's progressive Legend Of Colour (Zac Purton).

John Moore is on course to fill his cabinet with another Derby triumph and take his classic tally to: 3