His then owners hoped for Classic success at The Curragh last summer. His new owners will lead in Johan Cruyff as the winner of the 1998 Hong Kong Derby at Sha Tin today. Given a truly run race and no accidents, it is impossible to oppose Patrick Biancone's majestic galloper in the $7 million renewal of the richest domestic race on the calendar. The manner in which he simply demolished the Classic Trial field last month, switching up a gear with jockey Eric Legrix scarcely doing more than touch the pedal, spoke volumes for Johan Cruyff's innate ability. It is rare to have a European Group Two winner who is also Classic-placed running in Hong Kong and the astute Biancone bought wisely - even if Johan Cruyff left little change out of US$1 million. It seems a bargain on the eve of the Derby with a couple of good races already in the bag. They say there is no such thing as a certainty in racing and it is a view which has generally stood the test of time. But there are few occasions when a horse which has the overseas form allied to such a display as Johan Cruyff produced in the Classic Trial, lines up as he does today with other major factors in his favour. Leave aside his obvious fitness - Biancone has frequently expressed his complete satisfaction with the horse - and concentrate on the step up to 1,800 metres and the fact that about 80 per cent of the field he is meeting have already been hammered in the Classic Trial. On top of that, jockey Eric Legrix never touched Johan Cruyff with the whip in the 1,600-metre Trial while there were a few behind hitting and pushing. Were this a handicap it is interesting to ponder what weight Johan Cruyff might be giving away to his rivals after the Classic Trial. The Jockey Club's handicapping department is not noted for leniency. Simply given the way he won that race, it is impossible to suggest that Johan Cruyff is not going to benefit in some way from the outing which came almost two months after his abortive run in the International Cup. He may not be a particularly flash worker but even his trackwork efforts have been very noticeable. On all key fronts, the odds are hugely in favour of Johan Cruyff. He will be better suited by the 1,800 metres; he easily beat the vast majority of his rivals at his last outing; he is in robust form - and the combination of Biancone and Legrix has rarely, if ever, been in better shape. And they are both men for the big occasion as the Arc and a number of Group races across Europe clearly show. Add up the pluses and the tally is impressive. It is very difficult to find a negative. From a betting viewpoint, it must come down to finding the quinella and, more importantly, the tierce. The prime candidates are Smashing Pumpkin, Electronic Zone, Forest Spring and Multi-Star. Smashing Pumpkin did best of the rest against Johan Cruyff in the Classic Trial if you accept that Danzighill will not be best suited by the 1,800 metres. But the concern about the David Hayes-trained galloper is the fact that he seems at his best when ridden in one way - from well back. That's fine until you meet one like today's favourite who is not going to be easy to catch when Legrix lets him go, judging on the Classic Trial run. It is accepted that Johan Cruyff will be better at today's trip which tends to leave Smashing Pumpkin with plenty to do. He quickened up over 1,600 metres but it made little difference. Smashing Pumpkin, too, will be better suited by today's trip and he may well be better in himself - but will it be good enough? It has not been a good recent spell for the Hayes and Marcus combination which may have some bearing when considered in the context of Biancone and Legrix who could not wish for better times. My own inclination is towards Multi-Star as a minor threat and a huge hope for the quinella and tierce. The horse was patently not suited by 1,600 metres and he was pushed and bustled along early and virtually throughout the race. Multi-Star may well have resented it and if Robbie Fradd simply takes the chance and lets the horse settle and do it his way, there may well be something of a transformation from the Classic Trial effort. It will be worth taking the chance because bustled up and pushed along, Multi-Star may well not respond. Electronic Zone did not run up to his best in the Classic Trial and there were even niggling doubts expressed prior to the race in relation to his work. He appears to have come out of it well and connections are much more bullish about the Derby. It may turn out that senior handicapper Martyn Stewart's assessment of the horse in the controversial 26-point hike was off the mark but Electronic Zone has to be included today. As his trainer says, it is hard to fault the form of Forest Spring who goes into the Derby in tip-top shape and a possible threat to his stablemate, Johan Cruyff. He is a horse that is easy to like because he has plenty of heart. Marginal tierce chances are given to Born To Win and Skase Race but the supreme Derby accolade must go to Johan Cruyff.