THE main local hopes for Sunday's showpiece International Cup, Bowl and Vase all came through yesterday's grass gallops at Sha Tin in fine style.
Ivan Allan holds the whip hand in both the Cup and the Vase with the unbeaten Mr Vitality and the improving Privilege. Yesterday, he sent out Mr Vitality with stablemate, Sterling Town, who also runs in the Vase, and there is only one way to describe Mr Vitality's work - faultless. He cruised easily alongside Sterling Town who is, himself, working better than at any stage of his career, and had a comfortable length or so to spare on the line. Allan is not normally one to get too carried away with how his horses work or stress their chances prior to a race, preferring them to do the talking in the race itself.
But even Allan conceded after watching Mr Vitality gallop: 'That was a nice, nice piece of work. We're very happy with him.' Allan then went on: 'He had his hardest race in Hong Kong when just beating Winning Partners last time and for a few days afterwards it was clear that he'd been in a race. 'He's fine now, but the price on offer with Ladbrokes is far too short. He should be 3-1 with them never mind 7-4.' Allan then went on to point out: 'You have to remember that the race programming here has not allowed me to give him a conventional preparation.
'He has had to move from a mile back to 1,200 metres and then back up to 1,800 metres and that is a trip he's tackling for the first time. 'He is also stepping up into International company and the Cup does look the most competitive of the three events.' That said, Allan has Mr Vitality in superb condition and plans to give him a serious hitout tomorrow morning. Allan feels much less stressed by Privilege's preparation for the 2,400-metre Vase which has cut up into an extremely open and by no means overly tough contest now that Singspiel is a non-runner.
'I feel a lot more relaxed about Privilege,' Allan continued after his improving son of Last Tycoon had worked in his usual lazy fashion alongside Quick Action who takes his chance in the Bowl. 'He's had a much more conventional preparation with the necessary amount of lead-up races and he is in good form.' Greg Childs gave Winning Partners a thorough blowout on the grass and Neville Begg's gelding, bidding for his second International Bowl, is in the best form since he last won the Bowl.
He ran a stormer in the Happy Valley Trophy when a short head second to Mr Vitality in which he had to swing slightly wide turning for home to get a clear run at them in the straight. And yesterday he underlined he is a worthy 7-2 favourite in the Bowl with a most pleasing grass gallop. 'He's definitely better than last season,' said Begg. Childs reported after the workout: 'He's on top of his game. I'm really happy with him.' Begg also saddles outsider, Deerfield, for the Cup and while the race looks decidedly too rich for him, he's also jumping out of his skin.
Of the overseas runners on display yesterday morning, the Dubai raider for the Cup, Triarius, moved exceptionally well on the dirt while the Simon Dow-trained Young Ern, a luckless fourth in last season's Bowl, impressed when dashing through 400 metres in 23.3 seconds under his regular work rider. First trial - 1,050 metres 1, BELARUS (T. Quinn); 2, Amza Glory (S. M. Tam); 3, Millennium Reigns (G. Childs). Others (in finishing order): Rajput, Equine Supremo, Cutlass Perfection, Wonderful Star, Winning Lad, Spartan, Hung Hing Tai, Mediocrity. Time: 1.01.5 (23.5). Distances: 1 length, 21/2 lengths. Winner trained by Wong Tang-ping.
Second trial - 1,050 metres 1, AMERICA SUPREME (K. C. Chan); 2, Prince Baikal (T. Quinn); 3, Congratulation (L. F. Chung). Others: King David, Optic Star, Carryonninetyseven, Winford, Flower Drum, Canadian Champ, Fat Choy Together. Time: 1.02.6 (24.2). Distances: neck, neck. Winner trained by Wong Tang-ping.