Horse of the Year Oriental Express (4-1) turned International Cup form on its head when he beat raging favourite Johan Cruyff (7-5) in the featured Chinese New Year Cup at Sha Tin yesterday. In days gone by - but not that long ago - Oriental Express would never have gone off at such a quote in a race cut to five runners by the shock withdrawal of Hong Kong's highest-rated horse, Indigenous. Johan Cruyff was all the rage and, given the fact that he had beaten Oriental Express at levels in the December 13 showdown, it was scarcely surprising that, under similar conditions, he was expected to prevail in the 1,600-metre event. The Patrick Biancone-trained Derby winner of last year certainly came close - there was just a neck in it at the finish with almost two lengths back to third-placed Championship (6-1). Johan Cruyff, who had an interrupted preparation after he was withdrawn from pre-export quarantine when a bid to tackle the Australian Cup was aborted, did not seem to be travelling too well coming to the corner. Conversely, Oriental Express was breezing along as of old and when Eric Saint-Martin urged him on, there was an immediate response. It was ultimately a race-winning move and trainer Ivan Allan paid tribute to the French jockey. 'He gave him an excellent ride. When he made his move it was exactly the right time,' he said. 'I was delighted with this win and Oriental Express will now go for the Gold Cup and the Queen Elizabeth II Cup,' added Allan. Oriental Express quickly pulled in Benji (18-1) and Hornet (20-1) and seemed headed for a clear victory until Johan Cruyff finally got it all together. The International Cup runner-up put in a strong finish but failed to nail the winner. Biancone, not perturbed by the defeat, said: 'We have more important races coming up for him. This was his first run back after a long break and I thought he ran very well.' The French connection struck in the following event when well-supported Alexandra Palace showed expected improvement from his debut run to score a half-length victory over Happy Success (18-1) and Beauty Fountain.