THE 1996 Hong Kong Derby was supposed to be about Mr Vitality with the supporting role played by Deauville. But, David Oughton, Mick Kinane and Che Sara Sara hadn't read the script. Kinane has proved time after time the world over that he is the big race jockey and he continued his rich vein of form with a copybook ride to land Sunday's $6 million showpiece at Sha Tin. Jumping from stall one, the Irish maestro soon had his mount settled on the rails in midfield and produced the four-year-old with a perfect run in the straight. Of course Kinane couldn't do it with out having the right horse under him and, trained to the minute by Oughton, Che Sara Sara was clearly the best horse on the day. But, just how good a performance was it? On Sunday did we see a Derby winner that can go on to prove a dominant champion? In short, probably not, or at least not on the evidence of the clock. Not that in the conditions a winning time of one minute and 49.3 seconds is anything to be ashamed of - it equates to a Topspeed rating of 77 which rates a couple of points superior to the figure earned by Makarpura Star in last year's event. However, equally it was not a time performance to get the pulse racing and in fact it was merely a reproduction of his previous winning effort over a mile. In truth, as Oughton reflected afterwards, the ground conditions were almost certainly the key to the race and rather than simply being the best horse on the day - Che Sara Sara was more accuratetly the best horse on the day in the conditions. With the race times as a whole suggesting even slower ground than the official 'good to yielding', this son of Pearsian Bold clearly relished the easy surface. There can be few complaints from the connections of Deauville, who ran his usual honest race to go down by only half-a-length. Returning a speed figure of 76, the Patrick Biancone-trained galloper ran to only a five-pound-lower rating than his 81 best achieved over 1,900 metres and this ultra-consistent performer is a credit to his handler. Pine Fame filled the minor placings under an enterprising ride from Darryll Holland. Clearly enjoying himself being kept away from other horses, his time figure of 75 represents a 12 point improvement on his previous best this season. In running fourth, Equine Supremo (73) reproduced his previous course and distance win to the pound, while Super Team (73) has clocked improved times with virtually every run and is clearly a horse on the upgrade worth following in the near future. The disappointment of the race was obviously Mr Vitality (64), who on all past evidence really did look to have this race at his mercy but in finishing just ninth he returned by far his worst time performance of the campaign. Quite simply, forget he ever ran and don't take this as evidence he failed to stay. Mr Vitality posted his best speed rating of 92 over 1,800 metres in the International Vase. Okay so that is almost certainly the limit of his capabilities over that distance, while at a mile he gave the impression there was plenty more to come when clocking a Topspeed of 90. With that in mind, his optimum trip is indeed likely to prove 1,600 metres but it was not lack of staying ability that beat him at the weakened, rather circumstances and the going. Given the opportunity he would almost certainly prove that he was capable of winning the Derby but it is difficult to see why connections should bother when he may well prove a dominant force over shorter. Last Wednesday's New Year meeting at Sha Tin was another meeting dominated by the state of the ground and the officials ridiculously late change in description must rate a mention. It should be clear by now that the state of the ground is probably the single most important factor when assessing a race but the Jockey Club consistently mislead the public with blatently inaccurate returns. On Wednesday it took the powers that be until the fifth race to change the going to 'soft' from 'yielding' when the times clearly indicate the going was nearer heavy right from the off.