Rocket Man unconvincing at Kranji
Questions being asked about the form of Singapore champion Rocket Man ahead of the US$14 million Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Sprint were answered only in the negative yesterday after an unconvincing barrier trial win at Kranji.
The runner-up in last year's Hong Kong Sprint and winner of the Dubai Golden Shaheen and Singapore's KrisFlyer Sprint since, Rocket Man will arrive as the top-rated runner in the Sha Tin showpiece and the third-ranked sprinter in the world on 125.
Jockey Barend Vorster and trainer Patrick Shaw seemed happy enough with the trial, but fans who were dismayed by his defeat out of a place in the Sprinters Stakes in Japan and a recent domestic win that lacked his usual authority will not have gained any confidence from yesterday's 1,000m trial effort, despite the win.
His final serious workout at home before Hong Kong again saw Rocket Man jumping shadows on the polytrack course, as in his most recent win at Kranji under lights. This time, Rocket Man found an imaginary obstacle on the home turn and Vorster said the incident had allowed another horse to get a break on him.
'That's just him,' Vorster said. 'We just go with him stride by stride. Really there was nothing we could do with him today. The shadow was right across the track.
'He lost momentum so I just let him gather himself up after that and then let him chase down the leader. I was just urging him hands and heels. I was happy with the way he let down and he has certainly improved since his win here the other day.'
Shaw was unconcerned and said the trial was exactly what he wanted for Rocket Man.
'We wanted something to lead him and give him the chance to settle, and then have something to chase down,' said Shaw. 'We also wanted him to run a bit of time this morning.'
Caspar Fownes commented that his sprinters Lucky Nine and Green Birdie returned from the Sprinters Stakes with winter coats, and Shaw said Rocket Man had come back in similar fashion.
'It's been tough having him right after his trip to Japan,' Shaw said. 'I can't be as tough on him as I have been in the past as he had the trip to and from Japan and he's got another flight to Hong Kong. I'm happy with how he is looking now and his weight is pretty much right.'
Rocket Man will have an X-ray check of his right fore cannon, which he fractured in 2009, as has been standard practice since the injury, then fly to Hong Kong on Saturday.
Meanwhile, 2009 Derby winner Collection, who has not been racing since this time last year, has followed the same path as Carthage, which is owned in similar interests, and has been transferred from John Moore's stable to Derek Cruz.