The season may be winding down but Eric Saint-Martin chose a modest Class Three race yesterday to showcase his Group One ability at only his second meeting back from suspension.
Heavily backed River Jordan ($46), trained by John Moore, was the recipient of a vintage Saint-Martin ride and it was this piece of energy-saving navigation that made all the difference in the final 200 metres.
River Jordan stopped the clock at 1:21.6 for the 1,400m - a very fast gallop and only 0.4 seconds outside Armada's Class record, set earlier in the season. The course record of 1:21.0 stands jointly to the credit of Class One gallopers Planet Ruler and Gem Of India.
'That was typical Eric Saint-Martin - a very cool ride indeed,' Moore said.
'I predicted before the race that wherever he was, Douglas Whyte on Winning Bullet would be shadowing him. And sure enough, there he was - River Jordan was midfield on the fence and Douglas was up outside him.
'But Eric had all the answers. He had the horse on a lovely long rein and never looked worried. Eric is so patient, he gives punters heart palpitations because he waits so long, but the horses really appreciate that patience.'
Moore described himself as being 'on a learning curve' with River Jordan, a former Queensland galloper who was brought to Hong Kong in the latter part of the season to give the trainer some additional troops in the lower grades.
'I think this horse will develop into something worthwhile,' Moore said. 'At his last start, we went to 1,650 metres with him on the dirt and it just didn't work. He went forward and was a bit too keen.
'Today, Eric took his time, made him settle and came with a late run. No doubt that suits him a lot more. I think next season, he'll still be able to get the 1,600 metres provided he is ridden patiently.'
Saint-Martin said he looked like taking a handier position in the early stages but the speed of the race was maintained when Brett Prebble went around the field on hard-running Egyptian Ra.
'When they wanted to keep going, I just let them go,' Saint-Martin said, 'and so I ended up a bit further back. But that was OK. I was never concerned. My horse was always travelling very nicely and he picked up with a good turn of foot.'