Viva Icta shows sharp turn of foot

VIVA Icta produced an exhilarating performance to land the Group Three Centurion Trophy at Sha Tin on Saturday and the time suggests that this English import is every bit as classy as he looked. It is not simply case of a smart final figure, although a Topspeed rating of 72 is not to be sniffed at, but the combination of the relatively slick winning time and manner of victory that stamps him as a top performer. First, take a look at how the Peter Ng Bik-keun-trained galloper actually landed the spoils. Settled to the rear of the field through the early stages, he made a move turning for home and absolutely destroyed his rivals when quickening into the lead 200 metres out, scoring by an eased down 61/4 lengths from Mr Wonderful. Now take a look at the sectional times. What separates the best from the rest is the ability to truly show a turn of foot.

So often the apparent change of gear displayed by a thoroughbred at the business end of a race is simply an optical illusion caused by the front-runners simply tiring. Not so here. Okay, so a first 400-metre fraction of 25.4 seconds is nothing to write home about, but the next two splits of 22.6 and 23.4 seconds suggest that the pace setter Victory And Gold was not hanging around in the middle stages and a final fraction of 23.7 seconds confirms that Viva Icta possesses a quality turn of foot.

Remember, as the winner was only sent on at the 200-metre mark, his final split was clearly faster than the 23.7 seconds recorded, even without taking into consideration that he won eased down.

So, there is little doubt that he could easily have bettered the fraction recorded for the penultimate 400 metres, a fact that acts as positive evidence that Viva Icta truly does possess a top class turn of foot. Given the ease of victory we also know that he is capable of better than his bare speed figure suggests. We just don't know how much better. However, considering the progress already made since being in the territory, he is clearly not an animal to oppose lightly. Trained by Lynda Ramsden, he had fair form only in Britain and considering he had already raced over a mile as a two-year-old he should certainly be seen to good effect over further than 1,600 metres now. How much more Viva Icta will improve only time will tell, but the accepted weight-for-age scale suggests he should improve another 16lb over the next six months with only normal physical progress.

Naturally, that scale is only a broad generalisation and animals do mature and improve at different rates. Take Hussar as an example. He returned the griffin performance of last season when scoring in an exceptional Topspeed of 75 but in five starts this term he has yet to progress on that figure let alone improve at the rate the scale suggests. Although failing to justify favouritism in the Kukri Trophy, Hussar clocked a season-best rating of 72 behind Banker's Delight, who amply justified last week's praise by returning a speed figure of 58. The truth is, each animal should be treated on his own merits and the omens for further improvement for Viva Icta are certainly good. He was rated at least 20lb inferior to Victory And Gold in Britain and has improved with every run in the territory.

Now clearly the superior of that older rival, there seems no reason to believe he will not continue on the upgrade.