Merry Anniversary puts the writing on the wall
Trainer Michael Chang Chun-wai has done well with his imports and Merry Anniversary looks another who won't be far off a win after a good showing in the Rotary Centenary Challenge Cup (1,000m) at Happy Valley on Wednesday night.
Noble Alpha and Winning Apex have provided the stable with victories, while the likes of Liberty Valance, Loving Star and You Know I Win have all caught the eye with placings from two starts each.
Merry Anniversary had excuses when stepping out for the first time on January 8 over the straight 1,000m - hard ridden after blundering the start from an inside gate and was eased down over the final 100m. Ten days later, he made the trek to the city course over 1,200m with the blinkers replacing the hood and only lost a placing 50m out behind Happy Yeah Yeah.
With those two runs under his belt and some further progress in the morning, expectations were high for a bigger performance, but was instead a drifter in the betting - $63 to $142 - after he dislodged Jeff Lloyd while proceeding to the barriers.
Breaking from the widest gate in the 10-horse field, Lloyd eased him back after being posted four deep without cover, was still six lengths down while turning the final bend, ducked inside for a clear run at the 150m and finished up nicely in a blanket finish of four for the minor placings - a distant third behind winner Super Plus.
It's probably not a surprise to see Merry Anniversary adapt so quickly to the local scene. His half-brother Agility was a double winner and second from his opening three starts en route to versatile career totals of 10 wins at Sha Tin over distances of 1,200m, 1,400m, 1,600m, 1800m and 2,000m; and nine placings while achieving a mark of 106 under the guidance of Sean Woods.
The four-year-old is a son of Antonius Pius, a Railway Stakes winner at the Curragh and placed in three top- grade mile events - Breeders' Cup Mile, Prix du Moulin de Longchamp and Royal Ascot's St James's Palace Stakes.
Merry Anniversary still can do things wrong with a tendency to hang about, but when he fully matures, expect him to be a top performer.
Merry Anniversary performed under the same name in Australia for trainer Clarry Conners and showed some ability in three starts, opening his career with back-to-back seconds over 1,100m and 1,250m at Canterbury, before ending his stint with a handy win in an 11-runner contest over 1,300m on the Kensington course at Randwick.