Gotcha's on target
IMPROVING stayer Gotcha is the one they all have to beat in the fifth event at Sha Tin this afternoon. The John Moore-trained three-year-old showed his first real form last time out when caught close home by Face The Odds over 1,800 metres in a slightly more competitive event than he tackles today. He did not have the easiest of runs that day either as he was taken on in front by Intermac Supreme for much of the way whereas he should enjoy the run of the race from barrier six under Brian York this time.
Gotcha also had to work a little in the first 200 metres to get to the front when eventually beaten 11/4 lengths by Face The Odds as he was drawn out in the wilds in barrier 13. Barrier six confers an advantage over 2,000 metres as it should mean that Gotcha can go straight to the front and grab the rails run while some of his rivals, such as America Supreme and especially Spirits Bay, could get trapped wide early on.
Indeed, had Gotcha not been taken on last time by Intermac Supreme, he may well have held on and beaten Face The Odds. Gotcha had Spirits Bay half a length back in third when they last met, with the first three drawing well clear of their rivals which is usually a sign of solid form. Spirits Bay is now three pounds better off, but the draw means he is likely to have to cover extra ground round the broad sweep of the first bend. America Supreme, while drawn out in barrier 11, has good early speed as he showed when third to California Hero last time out. He is likely to have to use up energy to get across from his wide draw in the early stages and Gotcha's run up on the speed depends to some degree as to how well dashing English rider, Darryll Holland, can get America Supreme out and across. It won't be easy. America Supreme has also had three hard runs this season and it cannot be taken for granted that he will hold his form.
In contrast when a young horse like Gotcha suddenly shows vastly improved form, they are worth following. It means they have come to themselves and in Gotcha's case this can be explained by a combination of a step up in distance and a run under his belt to give him that edge of race fitness. Nor was that improved run unexpected as Gotcha was backed from 18-1 to 10-1 and that market move is a tip in itself. It clearly reveals that those in the know knew that he has plenty of ability and were confident that the extra distance would bring about significant improvement.
The move from 1,800 metres to 2,000 metres could well see further progression from Gotcha. And York was renowned for his ability to ride one from the front back home in Queensland. Excel Treasure shaped well behind Starbuck first time out this season and did not run too badly behind Goldchin Champ at Happy Valley last time out. He was noted hitting the line pretty hard and it is highly pertinent that Mick Kinane now replaces Danny Lee. Money Fountain has had injury problems and does not look like fulfilling the potential he showed early on last season. He may be no more than a Double Trio hope. Paradise will be at big odds now apprentice James Chan has the ride. Paradise was wide all the way last time and certainly cannot be left out of tierce bets, given the value he is likely to represent. Chan is not the worst 10-pound claimer in the world. Diamond Head has been racing consistently well at Sha Tin and can stay this trip.
He looks the other main contender, especially from barrier one. Champions Ivan Allan and Basil Marcus look set for a big afternoon, not least with Wonderful Way in the feature Royal Hong Kong Golf Club Centenary Cup. This second-season Irish import, a half brother to none other than Quicken Away, has improved markedly in his work since a creditable first-up fourth to Miss Piggy and could surprise at big odds.
He has most to fear from form horses Fortune Leader and Concert Boss, both of whom can be guaranteed to stay the trip. Indeed they will be all the better for a move up to 2,400 metres. Concert Boss is in better shape than ever and could prove particularly troublesome. My Home Town, another resolute stayer, appears the other to consider in this sixth event which will decide the shape of the home challenge for the inaugural running of the International Vase.