Retiring trainer Ivan Allan has won more than his fair share of silverware over the past decade in Hong Kong and appears to have a top chance of adding the $1.6 million Midland Realty Cup to the trophy cupboard with exciting prospect Scintillation.
The well-bred son of Danehill, bought for $2.6 million as the final lot at the 2002 International Sale, has already paid back the purchase price with earnings of $2.78 million and, by the end of today, prominent owners Hui Sai Fun and his wife should be showing a decent profit on their investment.
Scintillation has won his past three starts over 1,400 metres with such ease, he looks destined to represent the SAR later this year in the Hong Kong Mile. The exciting aspect to his most recent victory, when clocking 1:22.1, was how well he settled in behind the leaders for Douglas Whyte before cruising past his rivals as though he had joined in the race at the turn.
He still has so much to learn, yet is beating quality fields with authority. The Durban Demon has drawn ideally in gate seven, and from there he should be able to settle just behind the leaders in a forward position. There is also a slim chance this ride could be the one in which Whyte goes for his 100th winner this season and, if that is the case, don't expect any value in the market.
There should be more value in the quinella and Caspar Fownes' stable stalwart The Duke is the one that makes most appeal. He has failed to pick up prizemoney just twice in 11 starts this season and definitely had excuses when well beaten in the Derby, in which his stamina limitations were exposed over the 2,000 metres.
Since then, Fownes has freshened him up and the manner in which he won an all-weather dirt trial on June 1 suggested he is bang on target to return to his best.
David Hayes' Planet Ruler caught the eye in a trial on May 25, a positive piece of work in which he displayed considerable improvement. He has not competed since finishing fourth to Wintrow over 1,400 metres (March 13) but has clearly come back this preparation in better order. He would certainly rate a top chance today if able to repeat his early season form where he was runner-up to the likes of Silent Witness and Cheerful Fortune.
It seems stable jockey Gerald Mosse has opted to ride Planet Ruler in preference to Wyndam Easy, who has been in good form this year, having won three races. Wyndam Easy is always a threat if allowed to dictate the pace but with Prime Witness, Great Delight, Our Class and possibly The Duke all likely to press forward, it doesn't look likely.
Hayes' third entry is Prime Witness, who was simply outclassed in the Chairman's Sprint Prize (1,200 metres) on April 25. Any galloper that has won five times over this course and distance deserves a degree of respect but the truth is he has reached his limit in the ratings for the time being.
Dennis Yip Chor-hong has a nice prospect with Stardane, who switches back to the turf after a creditable fourth to Golden Care in the Lions Club International Trophy on May 22. Apprentice Alex Lai Hoi-wing's 10-pound claim brings him in competitively weighted (103 pounds) and, while he is taking a step up in grade, he does look a value chance capable of hitting the frame.
John Size and Shane Dye team up with Great Delight, who finished a fair fifth to Town Of Fionn in the ATV Cup, a key race in which four other rivals competed. He has been performing well without threatening to win and appeals only as a place chance. Size also enters ever-consistent Wealthy Treasure, who is unbeaten in four starts over the course and distance. All those victories have come on a track rated good-to-yielding or yielding, however, and that is the most important factor. If there is rain, he immediately becomes the one to beat.
Gallant Knight (sixth), Noble Silence (ninth) and Able Choice (12th) were all well beaten in the ATV Cup and there is no reason to suggest they can turn around the form today.
Our Class is also difficult to recommend because he may have to work too hard in the lead. He has never won over further than 1,200 metres and this trip does stretch his limited staying power.
Ideally, Sirocco would prefer a fraction further than 1,400 metres and his form hasn't been overly encouraging, suggesting he is best left alone this time round.
Looking at the preparation of debutant Famous Dancer, there is no doubt there will be plenty of improvement to come. His only trial came on the all-weather and he performed reasonably well.
He won four of nine starts in Australia, with his best performance a second in the Villiers Stakes (Gr 2, 1,600 metres). He is best watched today but looks a nice prospect for the future.