Scent Of Osmanthus in the air for TT fans
After being set an impossible task, yet sticking on resolutely last start, a better draw and a gear change make Scent Of Osmanthus the banker in the opening leg of a tricky Triple Trio at Sha Tin on Sunday.
The Me Tsui Yu-sak-trained four-year-old endured a torrid run after Howard Cheng Yue-tin pressed forward from gate 11 and got trapped wide facing the breeze.
Sitting three deep with no cover near the speed, in a race run with suicidal sectionals early, Scent Of Osmanthus was entitled to drop right out and the run be thrown into the 'one to forgive' bin.
The gelding gave some cheek though, looming ominously late, before upset winner Life Of Beauty, who had tracked him into the race, peeled off his back and took the win.
Scent Of Osmanthus was third, never giving in at the end of the same 1,400m. Matthew Chadwick takes over from Cheng and gets the comparable luxury of gate six, from where he is much more likely to get cover, with the addition of blinkers for the first time.
Scent Of Osmanthus hasn't been the most consistent horse, with two wins and two placings from 18 starts, but all six of his top-four finishes have been at this course and distance. He gets in with 118 pounds, minus two for Chadwick's claim, having dropped to a rating of 45 - one point lower than when he won his maiden in May last year.
Promising youngster Cool Bean (Tye Angland) beat Scent Of Osmanthus home last start, and had a hard-luck tale of his own. The Derek Cruz-trained three-year-old was held up at a critical stage, and while he may not have won the race with a clear run, he looks like a horse that needs time and space to warm into his work.
Had he drawn in the lower half of the field, not 11, he'd also be banker material, but the gelding has drawn two, five and two at his first three starts and the outside gate is a huge task, given his relative inexperience.
Another newcomer who looked a likely type last start was Dennis Yip Chor-hong's Why Not (Douglas Whyte), who worked home nicely for fourth at the end of 1,200m on debut. It seems like he would appreciate the extra ground, but has drawn similarly in 12.
The backmarkers should at least get a genuine speed, with Classic Figure (Keith Yeung Ming-lun) sure to be fired out to lead from gate two. He should be included after proving he belongs in this grade with a decent last-start effort.
Bad barrier draws also play havoc with selections in the middle pin, with Good Hong Kong (Whyte) seemingly screaming out for this step up to a mile, but encumbered with gate 13. The Danny Shum Chap-shing-trained gelding put in eye-catching efforts at his last three tries over 1,400m, and should still be included.
Perhaps look to Diligent III (Brett Prebble) as a banker. He is the safer option having drawn the inside and may have turned the corner after a breakthrough win at Happy Valley.
Also consider Clement Spirit (Yeung), Spicy Siam (Andreas Suborics), Cheerful Double (Alvin Ng Ka-chun) and Rocket Proud (Chadwick).
In the final leg, a Class Three over 1,400m, forgive Racing Reward (Olivier Doleuze) for his poor last-start effort after he produced a rousing gallop on Tuesday morning.
In a poor race, Racing Reward can act as a banker, with another two horses requiring forgiveness - Meridian Treasure (Terry Wong Chi-wai) and Supreme Knight (Prebble) - also going in. Buddy Buddies (Jeff Lloyd) and Polymer Win (Alex Lai Hoi-wing) provide options.