GEOFF Lane and stable jockey Declan Murphy have been chugging along all season, quietly notching the winners. They have had 10 each without having much luck at recent meetings. Cruise Missile ran very green when a creditable fourth at the last Sha Tin meeting and can be expected to improve significantly for the experience. Let It Ride had to check off Winged Foot's heels at the Valley before finishing fast into fourth in the race won by Jacko over 1,235 metres.
He is probably best over 1,400 metres and would be an interesting runner if switched back to the equitrack surface on which he won so impressively from Holy Smoke last season. And then there is Royal Pride who works so well in the mornings but has so far failed to do it in his races. But there have been genuine excuses for him on the last two occasions. Most recently he was taken out of the race won by Crown Commander when the weakening Good Scene fell straight back into his face.
Before that Royal Pride had little assistance from the saddle when ridden by maximum claiming apprentice K. W. Lee behind Bo Shing Winner at Happy Valley. Yesterday, Lane and Murphy asked a number of theirs to work along in solid fashion, none more so thanthe useful Fortune Duke who has been such a great servant to the stable over the last two seasons. Fortune Duke has had little chance in his most recent starts as he has been ridden by Lee against some of the territory's very best stayers.
Fortune Duke is not quite up to that company but he is more than capable of getting away with a competitive staying contest and holds a very interesting engagement over 1,800 metres next weekend.
Yesterday he responded in most pleasing style when Murphy called for an effort over his final 400 metres. Fortune Duke stuck his neck out to run home in a determined 23.6 seconds. He has been in fine form at the track all season but just hasn't had the right race come along for him. Next weekend he gets his chance and should be kept on the right side of - at least in the quinellas and the tierces.
Fashion Delux has been an infuriating animal over the last two seasons but finally showed he was ready to win when rattling home to run the quinella behind Chiu Chow Warrior down the straight 1,000 metres going back a couple of weeks. The 1,000-metre trip is almost certainly on the short side for Fashion Delux who has plummeted in the ratings and is now handicapped to win. His style of racing suggests that something around 1,400 metres could be more to his liking.
Yesterday he was not required to run time by Murphy but he did appear extremely well in himself as he covered his final quarter in a fluent 25.6 seconds. There was also a solid effort from Let It Ride and Shining Star who has done nothing but improve over the last 18 months. Shining Star holds a mile engagement on his favoured equitrack next Wednesday. Yesterday he clocked a pleasing one minute 19.1 for his 1,200-metre workout as he went to the line locked together with Let It Ride.
But he faces tough opponents next week should Lane decide to let him take his chance. Patrick Biancone's Helene Delight will take plenty of beating should he handle the equitrack surface. He appears to have been laid out for this race and is a potent forcewhen taking on solely Class Two opposition. He was unlucky against better horses last time when checked and shuffled back in running during an early part of the race won by Saboatan at Sha Tin but still finished a close-up seventh.
He looked ready to go when coming through 1,200 metres in a useful 1:19.4 yesterday. But the most sensational work for this mile event came from Bruce Hutchison's Be Glorious who clocked a sizzling 1:11.8 for his 1,200-metre gallop. Be Glorious has always been one of the finest workers at the track and has been getting better all the time in his races. He showed he was very well suited to equitrack when a tantalisingly close second to Lucky Knight last time over 1,400 metres. He will lead next Wednesday. Itis just a question of whether he can withstand the late challenges from the likes of Helene Delight and Shining Star.