Good Ba Ba's owner could still make his mark
The potential embarrassment of having retired champion Good Ba Ba representing Macau in tomorrow's Group Three interport trophy at Sha Tin has been avoided, but the horse's controversial owner may still prove a thorn in the Hong Kong Jockey Club's side.
Good Ba Ba, John Yuen Se-kit's 10-year-old former Hong Kong Horse of the Year and world champion miler, remains in training with Gary Moore at Taipa, unrated and unnamed but for his D168 brand and with little in the way of recent trackwork.
Hong Kong Jockey Club chief executive Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges reacted angrily when it became known Yuen had retired the triple Hong Kong Mile winner with the intention of racing him on in Macau.
Engelbrecht-Bresges, like many racing fans, believed the gelding had earned a nice retirement and the potential for Good Ba Ba to bob up in one of these events had real potential to poison whatever goodwill extended across the Pearl River delta.
So a win by another Yuen horse, Good Uncle, might be as welcome as 'Bus Uncle' for parochial Hong Kong officials but the Allen Tam Man-chau-trained five-year-old, carrying the famous red and black colours, is the best of the visitors, says Macau director of racing and acting chief steward Michael Beattie.
'If I was having a bet, he would be the horse I'd back, even though he isn't especially well handicapped,' Beattie said yesterday. 'He's a former Brian Kan [Ping-chee] horse who has improved steadily throughout his career. MC Tam has only had him for two starts. He came off a two-month break to run second over 1,800m the first time he ran him, then he won the Fat Choy Cup over the same distance in very soft fashion.
'The key to him is that he is stretching out to 1,800m and winning just on ability - I'm not convinced that's actually his distance and he has the speed to come back to the 1,400m at Sha Tin.'
The gelding's record of eight wins from 15 starts, at distances from 1,100m to 1,800m, entitles him to plenty of attention with the minimum weight on board, and Beattie also has respect for Moore's Viva Pronto, the upset 109-1 winner of this race two years ago.
'In fairness, he isn't as good as he was but he is still pretty good and he will possie up from the low gate,' Beattie said. 'I'd have to wonder if Clown Master can win it. On his best form, of course, he is a very good horse as he showed winning the race against Hong Kong horses at Taipa last year, but he isn't racing well lately. Turquoise Profit has his share of ability but I think he's a next season horse and the others from Macau have their work cut out.'
Tony Cruz has been the most successful interport trainer from this side of the delta, with three wins, and he has a strong hand again with Crown Witness and Turf Express.