FRENCH trainer Patrick Biancone has had to play an unwanted second fiddle to Ivan Allan in recent weeks, but he could gain a measure of revenge in the important Queen Mother's Cup at Sha Tin tonight. The end-season-staying test over 2,400 metres is highlighted by the clash of the Biancone-trained Deauville and the excellent Success Partners, aimed for the race by Allan who is now deep odds-on to win his second Hong Kong trainers' championship. Were we operating with bookmakers in Hong Kong - official ones, that is - betting on the trainers' championship would have been stopped last week with Allan five clear. Deauville ran a mighty race in the traditional late season staying challenge, the Champions and Chater Cup, when he went under by a length to the Allan-trained Privilege. It was a superb run from Deauville as Privilege is a 'heartbreak' horse who simply gallops his rivals into the ground.
He is one of the prized inmates of the Allan stable and being beaten a length by Privilege spoke volumes for Deauville - particularly as there was a doubt that the French galloper would actually see out the mile and a half. There were four and a quarter lengths back to third-placed Sterling Town with the first two home in the Champions simply powering away from the small field. That was a fortnight ago, but Deauville has shown no signs at all of taking any harm from the race in his handful of trackwork appearances since. As he had a lengthy mid-season break, Deauville is actually now probably at his peak. There must also be some sort of doubt over Success Partners actually seeing out the 2,400 metres. It is his first attempt at the extreme trip, but he has run on well over 2,200 metres so the odds may be in favour of him doing so. He, too, is a front-running type like stablemate Privilege but may not have quite the class of that one - which could open the door for Deauville to snare an important prize.
Success Partners prepared for tonight's clash with a solid win in the Pearce Memorial Cup over 1,800 metres in yielding ground so, if present weather conditions continue, he should not be at a disadvantage in the going. Earlier, he had run, in defeat, a tremendous race over 2,200 metres at the Valley when he was squeezed at the start and could not adopt his normal front-running tactics. As it was, he powered home from almost midfield to be going as well as the winner, Rajput, in the Sassoon Challenge Cup. He was only a quarter of a length off Survey King, who re-opposes tonight with topweight of 135 pounds. However, the conditions of the race do not necessarily favour Success Partners against the John Moore-trained stayer who was carrying 137 pounds when second to Rajput. In the Valley race, Success Partners was receiving 11 pounds so he does face a much stiffer task to turn the form around when receiving only one pound tonight - given that luck was against him in the Sassoon event.
Survey King, however, ran disappointingly at his last start in the Champions and Chater Cup and his chances of reversing form with Deauville, assuming the Biancone challenger remains in top shape, look remote.
The Champions is run at level weights so tonight Survey King must concede Deauville seven pounds for being beaten seven and a quarter lengths. Winning Horse looked unlucky last time not to finish closer when squeezed at the start of the Sha Tin Vase won a week ago by Citiluck. He rattled home from well back over 1,600 metres in heavy ground and should be able to get tonight's trip. Able Shot put in a good run in the Champions and has trained on well since then, suggesting a bold run tonight. He does come in to this race on much better terms than Deauville who must concede him 12 pounds for five lengths. It could get tight - particularly as 116 pounds is an attractive weight to carry over a testing trip like this one. It is going to be a severe test for the rest in this field. Cricket Lord ran only fairly in the Champions and has a lot to find while Sailing will have real trouble running out this trip.
Mazal is also untried over the trip, but will appreciate cut in the ground and came from near last to storm away with a 1,800-metre Valley race last time out. He looked in a different class due to the wet. Northern Fire Ball was up on the pace at his last start over 1,800 metres which is not his usual style. The Wong Tang-ping galloper has invariably run his best races when ridden from well off the pace and with Greg Childs taking over tonight from claimer Vickie C. W. Choi, there may be a greater degree of patience shown.