Gibson's Fire a good Starter for TT jackpot
Douglas Whyte jumps aboard a promising banker proposition in the opening leg of a tough TT which is expected to pay more than $8 million
With a good draw and the services of Douglas Whyte, Richard Gibson's Fire Starter can make the necessary progress at his fifth start and salute as banker in the opening leg of the Triple Trio at Happy Valley on Wednesday night.
After a few blowout results last week, the TT carries a $4 million-plus jackpot - expected to pay upwards of $8 million - and nailing down Fire Starter as top pick in the Sha Tin Handicap (1,200m) can spark things early on.
Gibson nursed Fire Starter through a series of restricted events in his first three starts, and his first two were excellent efforts before a nice runner-up display behind Pearl Win at his Valley debut nearly a month ago. When Olivier Doleuze went for home on Fire Starter he was shoved wider than he would have liked and it was only an in-form horse, which got an easier trail into the race, who managed to beat him.
While Fire Starter's performances have been solid - a third and two seconds - the three-year-old has remained on a relatively low rating of 53, a mark he looks capable of building upon. His only failure came when he couldn't take the heat in what has already shaped as a very strong form reference, the Griffin Trophy won by potential star Luger.
Whyte replaces the suspended Olivier Doleuze and gets gate four. Barriers are crucial with the rail in the "C" position and Fire Starter obviously has the right sort of speed to take advantage of the alley, but should have also lost a little of his edge and could settle more easily.
Where the speed comes from is hard to predict, but expect Whyte to remain close, probably one pair back, while Zac Purton on Victory General could take up the running from gate two, or at the very least the box seat - that draw makes him a threat. Victory General has moved from Paul O'Sullivan to Caspar Fownes, a move that coincided with the win of Disciples Twelve earlier in the term.
Tony Cruz-trained Key Witness (Mirco Demuro) was sent out with support on debut after solid trials, and ran a fair fifth. The cheek pieces go on and after he drew fairly well in five, he will again be considered a leading hope.
Benno Yung Tin-pang's Friends Of Yan Oi (Derek Leung Ka-chun) coped with the jump up in grade last start, and has drawn gate one - he can definitely figure.
The middle leg is a Class Four over 1,650m, where Yung is looking for four straight wins with Step High (Whyte).
The top of Class Four is often a brick wall for a horse that has risen from the ashes of Class Five, but Step High's authoritative last-start victory looked that of a horse that could win again. He has found a weak race and goes in as banker.
A stable transfer from Danny Shum Chap-shing to Derek Cruz, gate one and Dicky Lui Cheuk-yin's seven-pound claim are all interesting factors with Owners' Glory, who should be included.
Throw in Dragon Glory (Andreas Suborics), Blossom Daily (Vincent Ho Chak-yiu) and decide between Good Thinker (Neil Callan) and Sure Champ (Brett Prebble) as final pick.
In the final leg, a 1,200m Class Three, take Derek Cruz-trained four-year-old You Read My Mind as banker, with Moreira getting on board for the first time. He goes in ahead of Highest Acclaim (Purton) and Getaway Guy (Whyte).
This is a race that drops off sharply, but Cheers Joy (Alvin Ng Ka-chun) could be the one to run a race fresh.