Trainers seize rare chance
There were no cup races on offer yesterday, but a couple of scarcely scheduled events clearly had opportunist trainers Paul O'Sullivan and Andreas Schutz circling the date in their calendars.
Class Fives up the straight and 2,200m races at Sha Tin are a rarity on the programme and the two lower-tier trainers took full advantage of a running of both.
O'Sullivan produced the most dominant winner of the day in Victory General, who bolted in by 41/2 lengths over 1,000m in the lowest grade. With blinkers applied, Mark du Plessis shot straight across to the outside rail from gate 11 and rated the five-year-old to perfection.
'There's only two of these races per year and 1,000m is his go,' O'Sullivan said.
Not surprisingly, given Victory General's record of eight unlaced runs, the horse started a 10-1 shot, but made those odds and a 36-rating look generous with this easy victory.
The five-year-old now finds himself back in the bottom of Class Four.
'He'll be Ok up in Class Four if he doesn't strike a hot field, he's got tactical speed, so the 1,000m suits him,' O'Sullivan said.
Du Plessis agreed the horse was aching for a run up the straight course and with O'Sullivan's assessment.
'He's a bit quick for a corner and I thought the straight course would be great for him and it was,' he said.
'It was a very shallow race, but he did win very well and had a bit up his sleeve. I think on that performance he should be able to win in Class Four.'
Victory General has put on around 20 pounds and the trainer said he was handling all aspects of work better.
'He has got a bit more mature,' O'Sullivan said. 'He is holding his condition and even putting on weight, where last season he was just skin and bones. I couldn't put weight on him at all. This season he is starting to body up, for him anyway.'
Schutz produced Super Strike for a Class Four win over 2,200m, a distance he has won at previously.
Tye Angland took full advantage of the fair starting point from gate 12, letting the horse relax back to the tail, from where he unleashed a powerful finishing burst.
Super Strike was still a clear last after turning for home, but rounded up the leaders to win by a head, with Angland's celebratory flourish of the whip earning him a warning from stewards.
'The big track and the distance were perfect for him,' Angland said. 'He had to weave a passage through late and did a good job.'