RIDING legend Lester Piggott made a triumphant return to the territory yesterday with a brilliant last-gasp success on Sterling Town in a pulsating $1.35 million Hong Kong Classic Trial at Sha Tin.
Winning trainer Ivan Allan was the first to point to the Piggott factor as the key to Sterling Town's success.
''It was the old Lester magic which got my horse home,'' he stressed.
''Like vintage wine he just gets better and better with age.'' Piggott, a 58-year-old grandfather, displayed that rare combination of power and finesse - accumulated over 45 years of riding winners - on Sterling Town.
He threaded him through gaps which didn't appear to exist in the straight to win in the last bound by three short heads from Fortune Ride, Winning Chance and favourite Our Pal.
''It's good to be back,'' smiled Piggott after racing in typically understated tone.
''I enjoy coming here and I'm looking forward to riding Sterling Town again in the Derby.
''It's not long between now and the Derby. People might say this will improve, that will improve, but there's not much time and mine shouldn't find the extra 200 metres in the Derby any problem at all,'' he concluded.
Sterling Town's victory in front of the season's biggest crowd of 72,001 seemed a far cry back to 1948 when Piggott rode his first winner on The Chase in a selling event at Haydock Park in the north-west of England.