Young imports make massive impression
There was a good sprinkling of money for one, and not a dollar on the other - but both recent imports Buddy Buddies and Spandau Ballet were the clear picks of the Shing Mun River Channel Handicap (1,400m) at Sha Tin on Sunday.
Buddy Buddies made an impressive second start for trainer Michael Chang Chun-wai and jockey Olivier Doleuze, settling near the tail of the field from a wide draw, before taking a gap up the rails to pinch fourth, disappointing the punters who green lighted him in the win and quinella pools, but no doubt pleasing connections.
Buddy Buddies was also the subject of strong market speculation at his debut, where he dropped out early and did little in the race won by Harsh Brown in a boilover on December 19. Punters will take even more interest at the horse's next start after the Street Cry gelding sprinted well after his freshen-up and should only strip fitter for the run.
The Caspar Fownes-trained Spandau Ballet - which races in the famous Derby winning Super Satin colours of Ranjan Tikam Mahtani - was given little chance by the market and stepped onto the track for the first time with odds of 135-1 glowing next to his name on the semaphore board.
Named after a 1980s British band, Spandau Ballet, he travelled strongly midfield under apprentice Vincent Ho Chak-yiu and produced the grinding sprint of a stayer, once he found clear room in the straight.
The O'Reilly three-year-old is bred for longer, as indicated by his 1,400m debut appearance, and as he progresses through the distances he should pay to follow - particularly in the capable hands of Fownes, who will no doubt give the Subscription Griffin every opportunity to reach his potential.
Buddy Buddies and Spandau Ballet have caught the eye in the mornings, showing big improvements in every time when they have stepped out on the training track.
Paul O'Sullivan has shrugged off his slow start to the season, and his lowly rated Fascinating Smile, showed signs of improvement in the Class Five opener wearing blinkers for the first time.
The Danzero gelding plummeted to a ratings mark of 27 through his placeless first 11 starts, but the signs are there that this may be as far as he'll drop after apprentice Derek Leung Ka-chun utilised the inside draw to claim a more forward position.
The Subscription Griffin won't be bursting through to the higher grades any time soon, but a win around his current ranking would not surprise.
One to follow
Buddy Buddies showed good improvement in a trial but was sent out at odds of: 35-1
Spandau Ballet was only having his first run for Caspar Fownes and was unwanted in the betting at: 135-1