INVITATION Bowl hero Winning Partners (4-1 favourite) announced his return to the big time with a superb win in the final local event at Sha Tin last night. Defying a 140-pound impost and strong suggestions that he would be so much better for the run, Winning Partners ran the 14-strong field of Classes One and Two sprinters off their feet over the longer 1,200-metre sprint.
Winning Partners beat the fast-finishing Basic Instinct (5-1) by three-parts of a length with last-start winner Victory And Gold (6-1) the same margin back in third place. Greg Childs rode a perfect race on Winning Partners and came through to go clear halfway down the straight after being kept in close touch with the pace. Topweight Helene Star (6-1) ran a mighty race, fading close home but putting the writing firmly on the wall for the future. It was a fine effort from veteran trainer Neville Begg and Childs said: 'It was a pleasure riding Winning Partners, he's a quality horse.
He should come on from this, but there is no doubt that Neville had him tuned up and turned out perfectly for this.' Earlier, champion apprentice Simon H. K. Yim had resumed winning service with Everwell Times (4-1) in the seventh event. Yim, who had a winning summer in England, had gone close on a couple of occasions in the first few meetings but the Wong Tang-ping galloper was his second success of the new campaign. The five-year-old gelding had clearly benefitted from his first outing of the season when he was backed into favouritism and came through strongly under Yim to take it up in the final 100 metres of the Class Five, 1,600-metre event.
'He was very fit and going well for me. I was not very worried because I was sure we would be able to get a good run at them,' said Yim. Everwell Times scored readily from Elite (5-1) with the eye-catching run of the race coming from third-placed Beau Geste (99-1), showing his first glimpse of form. He was ridden a treat by Jimmy Fortune and should obviously go on from this. Maximum claimer James K. C. Chan notched his first success of the season and stunned punters when Lucky Express (24-1) careered away with the Class Three sixth event on the card.
With no weight on his back the Peter Ng Bik-kuen galloper fairly scampered away in the straight to post a decisive two-length win over battling topweight Mr Judge (5-1), with Basil Marcus desperately riding for a treble. Lucky Express clearly found the lack of weight and the firm ground to his liking as he was travelling particularly kindly for the inexperienced rider and readily swooped when popped the question.
Mr Judge was on the pace virtually throughout and certainly turned in a very game display with the Eric Legrix-ridden Big Mac, also on the pace, keeping on fairly for third. The huge disappointment in the race was the 5-2 favourite Centre Court, prepared by David Hayes and ridden by Steven King. Centre Court, who was in the care of Hayes in Australia, was confidently expected to follow up on a first-day third down the straight 1,000 metres which did not look to be his trip.
But Centre Court was tapped for either toe or resolution or a mixture of both when the crucial stages of the 1,400-metre event were reached. He finished fourth, but punters are advised to treat this fellow with extreme caution in the future.