ACCOMPLISHED American jockey Gary Stevens showed all the class that has seen him prevail from the Breeders' Cup series to the Kentucky Derby and the Japan Cup when taking the Association of Hong Kong Racing Journalists Challenge Cup on trainer Lam Hung-fie's Planet at Sha Tin yesterday. Planet held on by a diminishing neck and a short head from Saladin and the luckless Cricket Lord with All Good and Privilege a creditable fourth and fifth. Cynics may claim that winning the scribes' sponsored race is a sure-fire way of gaining good publicity. So the facts had better do the talking. Stevens, despite having only ridden at Sha Tin once before, showed his acute judgement of pace and overall tactical awareness to take the fourth event by the scruff of the neck shortly after the 12-runner field hit the back straight. This was a slowly-run event with the 400-metre splits for the last mile clocked at 25.3, 24.4, 24.0 and 23.4 seconds. With this kind of pattern to a race, the place to be is in front - which is exactly where Stevens positioned Planet midway down the back. He didn't take the six-year-old there by accident either. Sensing the slow early pace, as illustrated by that 25.3 quarter, he knew that sitting back in midfield would play right into the hands of Tony Cruz who took the initial lead on Joint Account. It was an audacious tactical move but it won the day as the challengers from back in the field were never able to get to grips with Planet once Stevens wound him up from the top of the straight. The other masterful aspect to Stevens ride was the way he gradually asked Planet for more and more from 400 metres. Lam, saddling his eighth winner of the campaign and his sixth from 23 starts from Planet, was full of praise for his rider. 'He couldn't have done it better. It was a quality effort,' Lam stressed as connections prepared for the celebratory photograph. It was a big run from the Neville Begg-trained Saladin to run second as he was shuffled back to beyond mid-division shortly after Stevens made his race-winning move forward on Planet. The Australian import also ran a bit freely yet still rattled home for second though the real hard luck story of the race was the third-placed, Cricket Lord. As Gerald Mosse produced him for his effort on the far rail, Cricket Lord, who is a very difficult ride at the best of times, hung in. At the same time, Cruz and Joint Account drifted off the rail and the two came together. The clash of horses for some 20 metres or so cost Cricket Lord vital momentum, leaving trainer Lawrie Fownes to understandably bemoan: 'We were certainties beaten.' Everyone likes a winner but Fownes especially wanted Cricket Lord to win to give him some kind of hope of getting a run in the Derby. 'He would then have been a winner in Class Two and we would have been some chance of getting in the race. I know he would be pounds worse off at the weights but there is only one Derby. 'Anyway, we'll still try to get in but it's doubtful if we will succeed.' Stevens had looked to hold a bright chance on the Irish import, Guts, for his retaining trainer Stephen Leung in the third event. Guts had worked supremely well going into the race but, even accounting for a pretty bad check on the bend as he was tightened against the rail on the inside of Dragon Leader and American Way, he probably wouldn't have been able to cope with the withering late run that Mosse conjured from John Moore's Django. Victory took the very much in-form Moore to 26 winners and placed him menacingly close to leader Patrick Biancone who has 29 to his name.