Planet gives backers early cause for encouragement

LOCAL trainer Lam Hung-fie managed just nine winners from 138 runners at a meagre strike rate of 6.5 per cent last season.

Yet it was not so long ago that future champions, Philip Robinson and Basil Marcus, were arriving as his stable jockey.

Two of those nine wins came courtesy of the four-year-old former subscription griffin, Planet, and they underlined the old training adage: ''He may not have many winners but his patrons tend to find them very profitable.'' That was certainly the case with the stoutly bred, Planet, who was a well-backed 5-1 chance when beating Super Power (good subsequent winner) by a couple of lengths over the Sha Tin mile back in last November.

Planet then lost nothing in defeat when just under two lengths second to the rapidly improving Our Pal in a Class Four 1,800-metre event at Sha Tin in mid-season. The pair drew clear of their rivals and Our Pal progressed to win in Class Two.

What's more, Lucky Treasure and Silver Freighter, third and fourth to Our Pal and Planet, made the form look rock solid with facile subsequent wins.

Planet also went on to win again so his form is on the board as he starts out in Class Three this season.

Yesterday his work with stablemate Fortune Ring gave further cause for encouragement.

Ridden by Darren Gauci, Planet moved well as he came through his final quarter in a pleasing 23.8 seconds for a total time of one minute 18.9 for his 1,200-metre workout.

Fortune Ring left winning jockey Darren Beadman astounded that he had dropped to the bottom of Class Three the way he sluiced home by eight lengths from Go Go on a bog track at the end of last season.

Fortune Ring also went well enough yesterday morning but he does seem to need plenty of cut in the ground to realise his full potential.

The successes of Planet and Fortune Ring were high points in the campaign for the Lam camp. The nadir was probably the defeat of Turf Apex at Happy Valley last April.

Despite making a belated season reappearance after some lingering training problems, Turf Apex was all the rage, some $5.9 million in win bets alone forcing him down to 5-2 favouritism.

He never looked like winning from the top of the straight, eventually finishing third to Aubade.

He then ran even worse at Sha Tin. So while the manner of his 1:18.1 workout yesterday suggested he will be ready to run well during the opening exchanges, the form book argues Turf Apex is one to treat with caution.

Gary Ng Ting-keung's burgeoning string appears significantly more forward than in his three previous campaigns.

His lightly-raced, young Australian import, Sure Win King, has come back into work looking a treat. It shouldn't be too long before he is off the mark, though given he is barely three years old he may not show his best until next spring.