Great Hero telegraphed his pending return to the winner's circle with an emphatic 41/2-length victory in the opening all-weather barrier trial at Sha Tin yesterday.
Great Hero was handled by Brett Prebble and made it a one-act affair, clocking fast overall time and sizzling over the final 400m in 22.8 seconds.
He has proved himself to be an outstanding horse on the artificial surface, but missed most of 2008 with a pastern injury.
He resumed with a decent third to Solar Mighty over 1,200m on the all-weather track on December 6, with the winner going on to score again at the next time of asking to confirm the form.
Prebble balanced Great Hero at the head of affairs, with Shy Baldy on his outside. But once heads were turned for home, Great Hero kicked with a splendid turn of foot to which his rivals had no counter.
Before sustaining his injury in early April last year, Great Hero had won two races on the all-weather track. He had already been a winner over 1,200m on turf in mid 2007, but came into his own when trainer Manfred Man Ka-leung tried him on the dirt,
At his first start on the dirt surface, he ran second to Supremacy over 1,200m, but then went a quantum level better at his next run when stretched to 1,650m. On the first occasion, the margin was 51/2 lengths at the expense of Chater De Lago, and four weeks later he disposed of his rivals by 33/4 lengths under topweight of 130 pounds.
Great Hero is by an Australian Group One-winning sprinter called Easy Rocking, who boasts a strong Hong Kong connection because he is a half-brother to the great Fairy King Prawn.
Runner-up Shy Baldy was a winner over 1,000m at Happy Valley on December 3 when perfectly handled by Douglas Whyte. On this occasion, Alex Lai Hoi-wing had control of the reins.
A more impressive performance came from Monte Cristo (Olivier Doleuze), who came from last with a strong late burst to finish a neck third to Shy Baldy.
The Andreas Schutz-trained gelding won over the Sha Tin Mile in early October, and at his last start was second to Dumbarton Rock after having a chequered passage in the home straight.
The second batch was taken out in slow time by Precision Magic, ridden by Zac Purton. The Almond Lee Yee-tat-trained gelding disgraced himself at his first start in blinkers on December 6 and was never likely after missing the start in the race won by Amazing Venture.
With the blinkers removed, Purton had Precision Magic handily placed throughout and the gelding scored by three-quarters of a length from Fairwood Crown, with So Nice a head away third.