Monte Cristo is getting better with each start
Trainer Tony Millard has had a wonderful season with five Group triumphs among his 32 victories and is on the verge of saluting with Monte Cristo after a driving third in the restricted Equidia Racing Channel Handicap (1,650m) at Happy Valley on Wednesday night.
Monte Cristo joined the Millard stable mid-season from David Ferraris and had to undergo a second round of surgery on February 16 to correct an entrapped epiglottis, before stepping out for a battling eighth over an unsuitable 1,200m on March 27.
He was then tried over the 1,400m for a closing seventh 13 days later, before a grinding 2,000m fifth on April 25th and rallying fifth over the Sha Tin mile earlier this month when not suited by the pace.
Switching to the Valley for the second time from 34 starts, Monte Cristo was hammered in the betting - 13-1 to 5-1 - for apprentice Vincent Ho Chak-yiu.
He was urged to hold a position fractionally worse than midfield, lost about a length when having to steady off the heels of Bespoke Master at the 1,200m, was tightened by Euro Swiftly soon after checking off Super Caga at the 300m, but stayed on well when regaining his composure for third, 23/4 lengths behind smart winner Euro Swiftly in the mixed Class Three and Four contest for non-winners this season.
The seven-year-old has lost his flashy turn of foot, but appears to be getting fitter and better with each start and can turn things around with a pure Class Four race off his mark of 57 over the 1,800m or 2,000m.
It looks only a matter of time before Derek Cruz's new recruit, Prosperous, finds the winner's enclosure after an unlucky seventh in the Class Four France Galop Owners' Department Handicap (1,200m).
Prosperous had chalked up only a fourth and fifth in seven outings for his previous mentor Me Tsui Yu-sak. He had to be ridden next-to-last from gate 12 under Brett Prebble at his first attempt for Cruz on April 20 before rattling home to take second behind Vintage Hussler over the 1,000m at this course.
On Wednesday over the 1,200m, Prosperous was again reined back from a similar gate under the guidance of Prebble to settle second from the rear, was still seven lengths down at the top of the straight but had to hit the brakes from a shifting Sammy's Falcon at the 150m when starting to hit full stride.
The five-year-old son of Blackfriars is capable of winning off his mark of 56, in fact, notching up a cosy win off an identical mark on a yielding track exactly a year to this date.
There was an avalance of money for Monte Cristo, crunched from 13-1 to