The crowds may not have flocked to Sha Tin for the New Year's Day meeting, but 1997 could hardly have started on a brighter note, with Forest Spring landing the opening Liaoning Handicap in impressive style. Not that the result took anybody by surprise - Patrick Biancone's charge was backed down to odds of just 1.4-1 - but there have been plenty of reputations destroyed when put to the test and this $2 million Select Sale purchase came through with flying colours. Forest Spring had previously opened his account in a relatively smart time when beating Calculation over the same 1,400-metre trip and, although last week's Topspeed rating of 59 represents only a couple of pounds improvement on his initial success, it was still a performance that supports Biancone's assertion that he is just the type to continue progressing with racing and age. Biancone also believes that this son of Palace Music will not be seen at his best until stepped up in trip and again the sectional times of 13.9, 22.4, 23.8 and 23.4 seconds certainly suggest Forest Spring hit the line running. The runner-up, Health First, has also come right since joining Tony Cruz's stable. Finishing in the frame for the third time in four starts this season, a speed rating of 55 represents his best time performance since earning 65 back in the 1994/95 campaign. That is enough to suggest there may yet be a little more improvement to come from this one before he is truly at his peak. Given he will be unlucky to meet another such promising and talented animal as Forest Spring, he too looks to have a race in him in the near future. The French partnership of Biancone and Eric Legrix completed a double with newcomer Mount Kosciusko winning the second section of the Liaoning Handicap. Despite the apparent fast pace, the overall time was nothing special and a Topspeed rating of 38 implies this may not have been quite the quality effort it seemed at first glance. Factor in Biancone's post-race comments about 'leg problems' and future potential punting plans must be put on hold. There is nobody better than the French training maestro at preparing a problem horse to be straight first time out and only time will tell if he looks the same horse when put under real pressure. The opening heat at Sha Tin on Saturday is a race to keep close tabs on. Showing the benefit of his debut run, Engineman made all to score in impressive style and record a time to back up the style of victory. With the winning time of one minute and 11.1 seconds equating to a Topspeed rating of 61 on good ground, this was clearly the best griffin contest of the season so far and the runner-up Perfect Star (58), third Tequila Pop (61) and the unlucky-in-running fourth Born To Win (61) should also pay their way.