The athletic ability of John Moore's talented Straight Gold isn't in question, but the muscular gelding will need to learn to take a turn if he is to fulfil his promise and his remedial work began in a Sha Tin trial yesterday.
Straight Gold arrived from Australia with a lofty rating of 85 after a two-year-old maiden win and a third in the Group Two Silver Slipper Stakes (1,200m), but the sprinter also brought with him some bad habits.
All of the chestnut's runs were around a right-hand bend, but he developed a tendency to hang in his races, something that has continued under Moore. After a failure when overracing as 3-1 equal favourite on debut over 1,200m, Darren Beadman recommended gear changes which came in the way of hood and crossed nose band. The changes paid immediate dividends with a bullocking win up the straight course for Neil Callan.
Back to 1,200m and a bend last start and the behaviour was even worse as he raced fiercely and was barely tractable on the circle. Yesterday's 1,200m hit-out on the all-weather track was a necessity for the now 91-rated runner, with Beadman taking a hard hold at the start, to have him racing second last in the six-horse heat.
He gave the 1,200-pounder a dig half way round the turn to have him quicken approaching the straight, and Straight Gold got pass marks as he rounded the field on the tight dirt circuit. After copping a slight check after straightening, Straight Gold ran the consistent Crown Witness to three-quarters of a length, the winner's time of 1.11.4 two tenths of a second slower than the only other trial of the morning.
The second heat was notable for both the winner Passionate, who seems to have returned a better horse, and the failure of the Caspar Fownes-trained Dance For Gold. The Peter Ho Leung-trained Passionate didn't fire last season, going around at big odds in six starts without finishing better than sixth.
The four-year-old dropped to 36 and was set for a Class Five over 1,400m at Sha Tin on January 1, but was withdrawn after suffering a fever.
This time Alex Lai Hoi-wing asked the gelding for an effort at the start and he showed surprising speed.
Lai again clicked the horse up in the last 200m when challenged by I Smell Money, who he held by a length on the line.
The surprise was the ineffectual effort of Dance For Gold, who had won impressively up the straight towards the end of January for Maxime Guyon. Brett Prebble took the reins this time and was hard at work to keep the three-year-old in touch, before he dropped right out in the straight, despite a few slaps of the whip from the rider.
Tuesday's turf trials at Sha Tin gave punters plenty of fodder, with stand outs including Sterling City, Enjoy The Fun, Expedience and Class Five horse Gorgeous Life, who bolted in by 7 3/4 lengths in his 800m hit out.
First trial - 1,200m (dirt): 1, CROWN WITNESS (M. Chadwick); 2, Straight Gold (D. Beadman); 3, Real Specialist (D. Whyte). Others (in finishing order): Enhanced, Zaidan, Enduring. Time: 1:11.45. Distances: 3/4 length, 1 1/4 lengths. Winner trained by A. S. Cruz.
Second trial - 1,200m (dirt): 1, PASSIONATE (H. W. Lai); 2, I Small Money (D. Whyte); 3, Sparkling (J. Lloyd). Others: Glory Horse, Dance For Gold, Hurry Hurry Up. Time: 1:11.29. Distances: 3/4 length, 3 1/4 lengths. Winner trained by L. Ho.