Change of venue helps Planet star

Robin Parke

THE switch of racetracks back to Sha Tin was a vital factor in bottomweight Planet's success in the final event yesterday.

Continuing the excellent season of local trainer Lam Hung-fie, Planet (10-1) easily held off the determined challenge of Derby hope Gay Pegasus II (3-1 favourite) - a result that may not have pleased but did not entirely surprise Irish champion jockey Mick Kinane.

Australian Darren Gauci was back on board Planet yesterday after Kinane had ridden the four-year-old Irish import at his last start at the city track of Happy Valley.

And both international stars agreed on one thing - Planet is infinitely better off at Sha Tin.

Said Gauci: ''I think the owners were keen to start him at Happy Valley because it was a cup race but I must say that I had my doubts about him handling the track.

''He didn't and I was equally sure he would run a decent race today although I thought it was quite a competitive race. But he travelled really well and I was able to ease him out and get a good run halfway down the straight.'' There was a length in it at the finish of the Class Three, 1,800-metre event which Gay Pegasus II really had to win to give real substance to Derby claims in late February.

He was given absolutely every chance by Kinane who said: ''I thought going into the race that Planet could be a danger. He just couldn't handle the turns at Happy Valley but he had worked a treat for me going into that last race.

''Gay Pegasus ran a good race and he will come on from it.'' Both the winner and runner-up were given excellent rides and had every possible chance, suggesting that trainer David Oughton may have his work cut out to get Gay Pegasus II to the Derby.

He was giving Planet 12 pounds and that clearly assisted Gauci, particularly close home when Planet began to go away.

Third place in the interesting event went to trainer Wong Tang-ping's Miss Piggy (25-1) who just edged out Muster Mark (5-1).

Kinane had better luck in the second event when Figure It Out (3-1) came from what looked a hopeless position at the rear of the field in the Class Six, 1,800-metre event to win going away by a length and a half.

Figure It Out, starting for the first time since late September, collared outsider Truly Easy (75-1) about 20 metres from the line and went on to win strongly.

It has also provided trainer David Oughton with a problem.

''He's by Zamazaan and needs a mile and a half and his progeny only really get going when they're five. Unfortunately there are not that many distance races for Classes Five and Six,'' said Oughton.

''Off his rating at the moment, he needs to win again to get himself out of Class Six before the end of the season or he will be finished.'' He's no champion but Figure It Out, a four-year-old, looks fully capable of winning in Class Five over longer than 2,000 metres.