TOY Warrior (9-5) played games with the opposition in the Juvenile Sprint Trophy at Sha Tin yesterday to boost the widely held view that the three-year-old is destined for Hong Kong's top sprinting honours.
Brett Doyle, who was landing a hat-trick of victories on the impressive son of American sire Snaadee, said after his second successive four-length win: 'They are going to have to be a lot better than this to beat him.
'I have ridden some good horses in England and in Dubai and at this stage of his development, he is as good as any. It is really hard to say that much about today's race because he never had any trouble at all.
'He jumped, settled, came easily round the turn and had it won when I let him down. But you could feel what was there. He's very good.' Toy Warrior's win was as easy a success as we have seen this season. The margin, big as it was, did not truly reflect the yawning gap between Toy Warrior and what he was up against in the $2 million Group Three event.
The temptation for trainer Andy T. W. Leung may be to run him in the late-season Chairman's Prize.
But it was worth noting the run of second-placed Charming City, who came through late under Steven King to collar stablemate and topweight Celestial Chief. This was a good run and trainer David Hayes can be well satisfied.
It was a day to remember for maximum claimer Philip C. T. Cheng, who landed a double and added further evidence to the growing belief that the present crop of apprentices are more than useful.
Young Cheng landed a good touch for the supporters of the David Oughton stable when he did well in taking the featured Pearce Memorial Challenge Cup with Made To Figure (23-1).
While Cheng rode with commendable aplomb in the Class One longer sprint, the laurels really went to Oughton.
The horse had taken its chance in the Derby which was, in reality and hindsight, too far for the four-year-old son of Pips Pride, better known as a sire of sprinters.
Oughton did extremely well to bring Made To Figure back from the 1,800-metre Derby distance to score by three-parts of a length here. The final move was an impressive trial at Happy Valley recently where Made To Figure showed afresh his sprinting credentials - and well being.
Said Oughton: 'I really was delighted with the trial. I think those who saw it would have realised that the horse was just about right again for a good sprint run.
'I always had reservations about just how far he would go. Freshened up, I was very hopeful that he would do something today. Full marks to the boy because he did what he had to do.' Made To Figure was just too strong for the Tony Cruz-trained The King Of Cloyne with Engineman a reasonable third.
The second leg of the Cheng double came with Good Message (18-1) in the Class four ninth event.
Douglas Whyte, who has put in for a Club jockey's position next season, added fresh impetus to his bid for this year's title by notching a double.
He rode the ears off Aly Baba (9-2) to win the Class Three, 1,800-metre fifth event and then had to go through an inquiry and objection before keeping the final race on topweight Win For Lily (6-1). Aly Baba squeaked home at the expense of Hong Kong Vitality (7-1) and Whyte said: 'I thought I had won but did not realise it was quite that close.
'It was a really hard ride and I was feeling it.' Aly Baba scored on the all-weather track on which topweight and favourite Hong Kong Stallion (4-1) disappointed.
Win For Lily just prevailed at the expense of French Fry and front-running The Rich Man, with favourite Jade Dynasty (5-1) fourth.
There was an inquiry and then an objection from Eric Legrix on French Fry after jostling in the closing stages. Also involved was Jade Dynasty but the stewards overruled the objection.
Said Whyte: 'He ran around a little bit but he was carrying 137 pounds. I thought he won it fair and square and it completed a good double. He is a very honest horse who has done magnificently under the weights.' Trainer Ivan Allan was equally pleased and will now aim Win For Lily for the 2,400-metre Queen Mother's Cup late next month. 'His last race win was over 2,000 metres and the added distance should not be a problem. I had the Queen Mother's Cup in mind for him and the fact that he has won here has definitely tilted the balance. It is a special conditions race for horses under 120 and I think he has earned a crack at it.' Champion jockey Basil Marcus came back from his enforced three-day break with a winner for Peter Ho in Wonderful Winners (14-1) in the sixth event while Eric Saint-Martin took the griffins' opener on Medic Hero (8-1).
It leaves Marcus and Saint-Martin on 45 winners and Whyte four adrift.