THE importance of track bias should never be underestimated. Recognising when track conditions confer an advantage on one horse over another is a powerful tool in a punter's armoury and last week's action on the equitrack confirmed the presence of a powerful bias. And with seven more meetings scheduled for the sand, it is bias that should pay handsome dividends over the coming weeks. With the artificial surface being prepared to produce such lightening fast conditions, front-runners hold an immense advantage for races run over the 1,050-metre trip. Three of the six races last Wednesday were over the short sprint and all three winners were asked to take the lead early. In the first, Top News led a procession that saw the first four placegetters hold their positions from the off. In the second, Steven King made sure Mughal Prince had taken full control by the first corner and Speedstar repelled all challengers in the fifth. Okay, so two of those winners were sent off favourites (Mughal Prince jumped at 8-1) and they were clearly expected to play a leading role in their respective races. But six contests over the course and distance last season had already provided convincing evidence of a front-running bias. The only problem is deciding how powerful the bias will prove and hence how strong a punting opportunity it affords. Everything revolves around the track preparation. The faster the surface, the more potent the bias, the stronger the betting opportunity. The nine 1,050-metre contests so far have come in batches of three, spread over three meetings. The first, on March 29, was by far the slowest surface but all three winners had taken a prominent position by the 600-metre marker. For the April 19 meeting the track was riding markedly faster. Two of the winners made all, while the other (the only one of the trio sent off favourite) was noted as always prominent. And on the fastest equitrack surface to date at Sha Tin, last Wednesday's results speak for themselves. If the artificial surface continues to be prepared to ride so fast, it will take an exceptional horse to win from off the pace over the minimum trip. Anything that has failed to show early speed can be left out of betting calculations with confidence, regardless of the animal's overall form. Under these conditions, find a sole front-runner in a race and you have a gilt-edged punting opportunity. So if the front-runners held all the aces over the short sprint last Wednesday, what of the overall merit of the performances? Top News in the opening Lai Chi Kok Handicap accomplished most of the three, clocking a Topspeed rating of 52, and can be reasonably expected to score again even if a pace bias doesn't exist in future. The same cannot be said of Speedstar, who earned a relatively poor 44 speed figure in landing the Kwai Hing Handicap. The Ivan Allan-trained sprinter clocked a particularly poor 23.9 second final fraction compared to the 23.4 seconds returned by Top News and, on this evidence at least, he will struggle away from a frontrunning track. Naturally, those who made significant progress from off the pace should be noted for when conditions change. Chiu Chow Kid and Success Partners are two to consider from the second Lai Chi Kok Handicap, while Adamant catches the eye from Kwai Hing Handicap.