Spin round the Valley can work wonders

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 03 March, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 03 March, 2010, 12:00am

Collection's barrier trial at Happy Valley last Friday week was forced on John Moore as he was required to trial the Stewards' Cup flop in order to take him on to the Hong Kong Gold Cup he ultimately won on the weekend, but it did highlight the benefit any horse can gain from a break in routine.

It was a far more switched on Collection in the Gold Cup and that may have had a lot to do with going back to a distance at which his record shows last season's Derby hero does produce.

But that attitude change may also have taken a contribution from the top-grade horse going to Happy Valley to coast around in a trial against a bunch of nondescripts from so deep down in the ratings one wouldn't be surprised to find a giant octopus there somewhere.

As the Jockey Club has steadily downgraded racing at Happy Valley in the past decade, life has become more humdrum for many of the best horses in town.

No float trips to anywhere, no change of scenery. Just walk across to the track at Sha Tin for training, trials and racing.

The benefits of a change of routine for horses in this environment, which can quickly become stale for them, shouldn't be underestimated.

How often do we see improvement with a change of stables? Even at times when we might subjectively believe a horse is moving from a better trainer to a lesser one, merely the change itself does the trick and a failing horse can find some new interest in racing.

Ironically, for the run-of-the-mill horses, there is more variety in their lives as they mix their racing at Sha Tin, perhaps on both surfaces, and at Happy Valley.

It is less than 10 years since Fairy King Prawn resumed for the next season at Happy Valley following his Yasuda Kinen win and he made a lie of the argument that good horses shouldn't be there when he made light work of 135 pounds in the Group Three feature, the Happy Valley Trophy.

With high-grade races now a thing of history at the city track - the Happy Valley Trophy last December was a virtual Class Two - top horses have no opportunities to run there. (All the more shameful when we consider Our Lucky Baby might never win another race now that he has run himself out of play at the Valley for the foreseeable future.)

The only variety left open to the good ones is to trial there and Collection reaped the benefits.