Long-serving trainer Lawrie Fownes is a regular supporter of the infrequent trials held at Happy Valley and he had every reason to be pleased with yesterday morning's efforts at the city track. Why some stables resolutely cold shoulder the Valley trials remains a mystery. They are worthwhile on at least three counts: they give trainers a chance to use the grass, provide a welcome break for horses from the day-to-day routine of Sha Tin and give younger gallopers an outing on the Valley course where 40 per cent of racing is conducted each season. There have been few Valley trial sessions where Fownes has not been represented and the efforts of China Cruise and En Rapport made yesterday's trek across the harbour well worthwhile. China Cruise is a testimony to the dedication of his trainer as he has come back to the top flight after operations for a wind problem which threatened his potential as a quality galloper.
China Cruise coolly took the first of the four trials under stable jockey Wendyll Woods, coming smoothly through from well off the pace to take command close home and win from Compulsory, who was wide throughout, and Kowloon Jazz. The effort of China Cruise underlined his well-being, but it was the run of Kowloon Jazz which may immediately prove more financially beneficial. The Irish import, trained by David Hill, finished a good third last time out and is definitely going to improve on that effort.
This was a very good trial as he was midfield on settling, but steadily improved to come home solidly along the rails with only a couple of heads in it at the finish. It is a fact that Hill's horses have been running well in recent weeks and Kowloon Jazz is poised to run a big race when next produced.
The Fownes-trained En Rapport took the second trial and it too was a solid performance. The gelding was slowly into stride and wide in the run, but he ran on strongly to edge out Make It Easy and Golden Mascot. On settling, En Rapport was closer to the front than the back in the 10-runner trial but progressed steadily under Woods to leave the right impression. The one to watch from this outing is youngster Blissful Prospects who was slowly away, three deep around a couple of turns but came home late along the rails to be closest at the finish. He travelled most kindly for Richard Quinn and trainer Wong Tang-ping has something to work with here.
King's Honour, also a newcomer, was out of the stalls quickly and ran a steady trial under Victor C. F. Chan. Trainer Bruce Hutchison is enjoying a good spell and given the season he has had off the course, none will begrudge him it. Two winners in a couple of days and other horses running well suggest a bright second half to the campaign and he would have had no reason to complain about the efforts of Irish import Aspiration. A Leopardstown winner from only three Irish starts, Aspiration has taken time to find his feet and shown little in a handful of starts. But judging by his smooth acceleration under Piere Strydom to come between horses and take the fourth trial yesterday, better times lie ahead.
He is a fine-looking individual and Aspiration came from worse than midfield to get the better of pace-setting stablemate Music Kid with well-tried Noble Dancer third. Music Kid also put in a bold effort. The third trial was a poor affair with the nine-runner field stretched out over a furlong at the finish. It contained five newcomers, but there was not a great deal to be gleaned from the outing. The Fownes-trained Inventor finished a distant fourth and Ivan Allan's North Star showed some early pace and held on for a fifth. The trial went to the Derek Cruz-trained Winner's Star.
HAPPY VALLEY TURF TRIALS First trial _ 1,200 metres: 1, CHINA CRUISE (W. Woods); 2, Compulsory (T. Kwok); 3, Kowloon Jazz (P. Robinson). Others (in finishing order): Option, Bold Saxon, Saboatan, Bold Dancer, Super Goal, Vintage, Treasure. Time: 1:12.3 (25.2). Distances: 1/2 lengths, neck. Winner trained by Lawrie Fownes.
Second trial _ 1,200 metres: 1, EN RAPPORT (W. Woods); 2, Make It Easy (H. K. Yim); 3, Golden Mascot (C. M. Au). Others: Wing's Honour, Blissful Prospects, Spring Of Windsor, Rainbow Star, Lekker, Savvy Trio, Woodside Park. Time: 1.13.2 (24.5). Distances: 2 lengths, 11/2 lengths. Winner trained by Lawrie Fownes.
Third trial _ 1,200 metres: 1, WINNER'S STAR (C. M. Au); 2, Heart To Heart (T. Quinn); 3, Diamond Chance (H. K. Yim). Others: Inventor, North Star, Top Light, Ever So Easy, Long Champion, Mosi-Oa-Tunya. Time: 1.13.8 (26.3). Distances: 1 length, 11/4 lengths. Winner trained by Derek Cruz.
Fourth trial _ 1,200 metres: 1, ASPIRATION (P. Strydom); 2, Music Kid (E. Saint-Martin); 3, Noble Dancer (W. Woods). Others: Polish Admiral, Citadel, Heart Of Show, Tea For You, Palette Star, Toy General, Golden Double. Time: 1.12.6 (25.9). Distances: 1/2 length, head. Winner trained by Bruce Hutchison.