The top-class work in progress that is Military Attack took another step towards hitting the big time with a Group Three January Cup win at Happy Valley last night that surprised his jockey.
Weichong Marwing had been riding the John Moore-trained stablemate Same World and considered him the horse to beat in the 1,800m handicap but the jockey was unable to make that gelding's 113-pound handicap allotment.
"I really thought Same World would win the race but I was grateful to John that I had a ride in the race when he put me on Military Attack," Marwing smiled widely after the five-year-old overpowered Helene Spirit in the final 100m to take his biggest victory yet, with his trainer absent in Australia at the Magic Millions yearling sale. Coming back from the Hong Kong Mile, Military Attack found the company more to his liking but Marwing, having his first race ride in the horse, believes there is more to come.
"Even when you ride him in the mornings, he'll be going along nicely then all of a sudden he looks around and sees something that is there every morning and he'll lose concentration," Marwing said.
"And that's where he is at the moment. He isn't focused properly on his job yet. He's so raw. The ability is there, you can feel it, but he doesn't know yet how to use it."
In a race that threatened to be a trot and canter, the saddle appeared to shift on backmarker Fun Rider early on and jockey Eddy Lai Wai-ming had no option but to roll around the field to lead.
"That definitely helped me," Marwing said. "There was a good even tempo and I was always happy where I was. I had Helene Spirit in my sights all the race. Military Attack took a stride or two to get going when we turned for home but then he lengthened like the horse that I think everyone thinks he might be when he gets his act properly together. Hopefully, the win is going to bring him on now."
Trainer Derek Cruz took the honours numerically, claiming an early double in the first and third races with Enjoy The Fun and Magnanimous.
Enjoy The Fun has been a frustrating horse but was closer than usual and gave Tom Queally his second win locally after Cruz, in his frustration, had changed just about everything with the five-year-old.
"At Sha Tin last time, he was beaten at the 600m. So I thought I'd do something different, bring him here for the first time, change all the gear on him and see," Cruz said.
"I still thought he was going to drop out on the home turn again but he came back to win.
"It's a relief to get one out of him."
Magnanimous is a seven-year-old having only his 20th start and his record of three wins and six placings has been spread over several seasons. "He had a slab fracture of a knee and, in the past, even when he won he'd be sore after a race and need a break," Cruz said. "This season he seems a lot better - he hasn't come back sore after any run so I'm able to get some racing into him."
Umberto Rispoli might have produced the ride of the night to win on Noble De Best and got full credit from trainer Manfred Man Ka-leung, while Neil Callan was able to score on outsider Great Spirit for Ricky Yiu Poon-fai and draw some comparisons with one of the yard's better horses.
"He's a bit like Legendary Dragon in the sense that he's only a compact horse but with a turn of foot and that suits Happy Valley," Callan said. "He had been difficult to steer when I trialled him but he has been better since Ricky put a ring bit on him."