Derby attack comes from all angles

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 February, 2012, 12:00am

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When the Classic Cup, or rather its previous incarnation, the Derby Trial, was introduced, there was a fear the race would impact on the mystery of the Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong Derby for fans.

Previously, the Classic Mile had offered only a somewhat unreliable guide to the four-year-old classic event as the sprinter-milers of that race tried to bridge the gap to running out 2,000 metres.

Derby horses came through events like the Centenary Vase or the Class One and Two handicap events, and different paths took horses to Derby glory. That ensured there was still some mystery about which horse would beat which horse on the big day. That original fear has generally been borne out by history.

Floral Pegasus was outstayed in the 2007 Derby by Vital King, a horse he had outsprinted in the Trial, and Helene Mascot misbehaved in the Trial before he turned the tables on Green Birdie on Derby day. In the past two years, King Dancer just beat Super Satin in the Trial, but Super Satin had his revenge in the main event, while Ambitious Dragon was good enough to win both four-year-old terms races.

The exceptions have been the first Derby Trial winner, Hello Pretty, who didn't turn up in the same form on Derby day behind the John Moore-trained Viva Pataca, who had arrived on a diet of open Class Two competition. And Trial winner Unique Jewellery had no answer in the 2009 Derby in finishing fourth behind Collection, another Moore horse to have come through open Class One and Two contests.

This year's Derby Trial, sorry, Classic Cup, answered a few questions and probably made Sweet Orange and Dominant the ante-post favourites (if we ever get around to ante-post betting on the race).

Sweet Orange was clearly the run of Sunday's race, while the danger for him is that Dominant has had only the two starts, improved markedly from the first run and still has room for considerable improvement. Fay Fay undoubtedly lost caste for the Derby in fourth.

The Classic Cup may well be the right form for the Derby, but it is Moore again who looks like providing the alternative path, with Military Attack impressive with all favours at Happy Valley, and even Same World's Class Three effort on the weekend making the list as promising.

Military Attack grabs the imagination as one to upset the traditional path-takers through the four-year-old events. As Rave in the UK, Military Attack showed a style of quick, dashing acceleration more in keeping with racing in Hong Kong than the usual talent of the Europeans to click up the tempo, then click up again.

Both Moore runners must surely go through the 'Collection race' - the 105-80 Class Two on March 4 which was band-extended in 2009 specifically to allow Collection to run - and looks like it will offer a good contest as the last-ditch race for Derby horses to get a run under the belt or ratings points on the board.

Much of the water has flowed under the Derby bridge already, but it might all look different if we see a serious performance on that day.