Champion to lift title tempo
CHAMPION trainer Ivan Allan is on record as saying that he does not think he can win this year's title or that he will be too concerned if or when he loses it.
Given the way Hong Kong racing is dominated by handicaps, it is evident that a successful stable one season should be less so in the one that follows unless there is a lot of new blood introduced.
Allan had a slowish start to this campaign, but then started producing the winners and it would be a foolish person who gives long odds about him retaining the title - no matter what he says.
Sure, Patrick Biancone is sitting very pretty at the moment - particularly after a winning double on International Races day when arch-rival Allan may have had his mind on the main events.
But it is back to basic business at Happy Valley on the equitrack tonight and it is at these midweek meetings - frequently ordinary and often on equitrack - where titles are won and lost.
Just ask champion jockey Basil Marcus who is bidding for his fourth straight title. His expertise round the Valley and his plundering of equitrack night meetings laid the foundations for his title successes.
At tonight's modest meeting Allan is represented in every race while the French ace starts just two runners in the seven events.
With Marcus engaged in six of the seven races, it is also easy to see where his power base remains as he bids to retain his crown. And why it would again be foolish to suggest that he cannot keep it.
Allan and Marcus combine for what could be one of the night's more interesting bets in the fifth where Fortune Ring heads the weights and can win this Class Four, 1,600-metre event.
Fortune Ring has been known to be effective on rain-affected ground, but he is also handy enough on the synthetic surface and is certain to be seen to advantage in this 10-runner affair.
Marcus has drawn against the rails which may not be a great help to Fortune Ring who is not a particularly fast beginner, but the South African can be guaranteed to have him in a handy position not long after they settle.
Fortune Ring's last run was exemplary. He was handled on that occasion by Frankie F. C. Lor who does a lot of riding for the champion trainer.
But when a horse is really ready to run a top race, Marcus invariably gets the call and those who watched Fortune Ring rattle home last time will have little doubt that he is now ready to give his best.
Lor was aboard when Fortune Ring tackled the Valley grass last time. That was over 1,235 metres and certainly short of his best exposed form.
From a position at the very rear of the field, Fortune Ring made up great ground in the straight along the rails and flashed home for third place only a quarter of a length behind Lucky Touch.
It was an excellent run and left no observers in much doubt that he was backable material at his next outing. That comes tonight and in Classs Four.
As he has run well over 1,600 metres on equitrack in the past he does look extremely difficult to beat in a competitive field.
It does suggest the possibility of an exciting finish.
Walter Swinburn is a significant booking for the Gary Ng Ting-keung galloper Electric Power who looked a trifle unlucky when finishing third at his last start.
Jockey Peter Hutchinson just could not quite get a crack at them early enough and Electric Power flew home to finish third to Pleasant Win over 1,200 metres at Sha Tin.
He is tackling an equitrack mile for the first time, but the manner in which he came from near last at his previous outing to finish so close suggests that he will run this trip out.
Swinburn is riding in masterful form and can be expected to extract the last ounce out of Electric Power and it should be enough to see him finish in the frame. He looks a top quinella chance.
Asian Glory looks the other main chance in the race. Trainer John Moore started him over 2,000 metres on equitrack last time and he ran a bold race before fading out of it at the finish.
As he has now run well on equitrack Asian Glory is worth considering over the lesser trip.
Mick Kinane is reunited with Call Me Special who won over 1,400 metres on the dirt last time, but may have a question mark over his making the distance. He has not run it out strongly in the past.
Super Delight disappointed completely last time and trainer Brian Kan has turned to French jockey Eric Saint-Martin in a bid to improve things. But on his last run, Super Delight has far too much to find.
Cruz is on Wind Traveller, a confirmed equitrack specialist, but one who may still find this Class a little hot.