Grassland Star a cut above rivals
SPEEDSTER Grassland Star showed there are more sprint races to be won with him when annihilating the second of two barrier trial fields on the main all-weather track at Sha Tin yesterday morning. The Irish import progressed well towards the backend of last season and has been by no means disgraced on three outings this time round but without getting his head in front.
When he ran in Ireland he was very much a specialist down the straight 1,000-metre course and that could well be the time to strike on him from a betting point of view should trainer Brian Kan Ping-chee manage to find him a race of that nature.
Time and time again the old racing maxim of horses for courses proves itself down the straight course. It is the same all over the world, a straight track in particular lends itself to specialists and hardly a race down the Sha Tin chute goes by without it being won by a horse previously successful over course and distance.
Conversely, there are those who are much better off running round a bend. Yesterday Grassland Star went straight to the front under Kan's new apprentice who is another 'Hong Kong' - Hong Kong Cheung. He looks a promising boy, is much younger than most of the other claimers and it will be interesting to see how he fares when thrown into races proper. He is said to have won races at Shenzhen, though that probably doesn't mean too much.
Anyway, Cheung, having his seventh trial ride, looked tidy and compact on Grassland Star and like all inexperienced apprentices in trials, he went a bit harder on his horse than a senior jockey would.
These young claimers love to ride them out in these heats, and why not, it's good practice for them. Yesterday Grassland Star had seven lengths to spare on the line over Peter Ng Bik-kuen's Health First, who in turn was three lengths clear of Tony P. H. Chan's enigmatic customer, American Star. The last-named has plenty of ability but not the moral fortitude to match.
Hence Chan has made the remedial call to Marcus to try to sort him out.
It will be revealing to see if Marcus, not known for allowing horses to shirk with him through a race, can get to the bottom of American Star come raceday. Geoff Lane's Laureate was not over exerted to run home fifth in this second trial under Eric Saint-Martin and is worth another chance. He had no luck in running last time. Darryll Holland was instructed to hold his mount up as he was starting over 1,900 metres for the first time and the race turned into a sit and sprint.
In the circumstances Laureate put in an encouraging effort to make up so much ground from the rear to run fifth to Planet who was given such a peach of a ride from Marcus. Lane took the first heat with his imposing sprinter-miler, Dashing, who sat easily in second before sliding past Peter Ng's Smooth Journey to score by 11/2 lengths. The pair pulled six lengths clear of their rivals and that was an accurate measure of their domination.
Dashing is probably going as well as he's ever gone while Smooth Journey is one to remember for the future. He's not the finished article yet and may need another couple of runs but there is something there - it's called speed. TRIAL RESULTS First trial: 1, DASHING (E. St Martin); 2, Smooth Journey (W. L. Ho); 3, Timely Dew (K. L. Tsui). Others (in finishing order): Drifting Away, Perfect Timing, Carryonninetyseven, Dashing Boy. Time: 1.10.3 (24.8). Distances: 11/2 lengths, 6 lengths. Winner trained by Geoff Lane.
Second trial: 1, GRASSLAND STAR (H. K. Cheung); 2, Health First (D. Lee); 3, American Star (B. Marcus). Others: Cosmolife, Laureate, Golden Emperor, Sugarloaf, Red Jeans, Flying Cheetah. Time: 1.08.9 (23.8). Distances: 7 lengths, 3 lengths. Winner trained by Brian Kan Ping-chee.