Supreme Gains raring to go after well-earned break

John Bell

Classy Supreme Gains is expected to consolidate his place as a leading contender for next month's Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong Derby by making a winning return to the track in today's Plover Cove Handicap (1,600m) at Sha Tin.

The brilliant Anabaa gelding has built up the impressive record of five wins from seven starts, despite always having given the indication he would be a better horse with a bit of time and maturity.

He opened the season with an excellent victory over the smart Excellent Boy back in September before scoring narrowly over Bullish Cash on November 4 after being forced to race wide for the entire trip after jumping from gate 13.

Trainer Manfred Man Ka-leung opted to give the four-year-old a break from racing following the success and it appears to be a decision that will bear fruit judging by the barrier trial performance of Supreme Gains on January 23.

Jockey Douglas Whyte took his time on Supreme Gains early in the trial as Eddie Lai Wai-ming made play up front on Reunion, with the David Hall-trained galloper having opened up an eight-length break on the circle.

In the straight, under a minimum of urging, Supreme Gains swallowed up the leader and went to the line with something in reserve to score by a half length.

Although there is sure to be improvement to come from Supreme Gains following his first-up assignment, success is vital this afternoon if he is going to measure up to the likes of Floral Pegasus, Champions Gallery, Viva Macau and Vital King in the March 18 feature.

His biggest threat this time will come from the highly talented Time Supreme, despite the Caspar Fownes-trained five-year-old jumping from the outside barrier.

The O'Reilly gelding returned to his original trainer following a first-up defeat and wasted no time in landing his first success for nearly a year on November 19.

Time Supreme settled well back off a fast pace under apprentice Jacky Tong Chi-kit but sprouted wings over the final stages to gun down Regal Thrills and Jade Dragonfly.

He took the rise to Class Two last start and looked desperately unlucky not to finish closer than fourth to Goody after being held up early in the straight before rocketing to the line when the race was all over.

Tong is likely to bide his time early on Time Supreme but expect the long-striding gelding to be again powering home in the final stages.

River Jordan has proven a touch costly this season but it would be unwise for his supporters just to drop off yet.

The John Moore-trained gelding has been highly fancied at his four attempts this season and although yet to manage a win, every one of his performances has had merit. He looked a touch unlucky not to fill a place behind Survey Survey two starts back before closing off well last outing behind Goody and Lotzatow.

Moore trialled the Irgun four-year-old on January 16 and he showed he had retained form by closing off smartly in the final stages, without any pressure, to finish sixth to Pay-Day.

Visiting jockey Damien Oliver takes over the reins, with Christophe Soumillon sidelined through suspension, and from gate two he looks set to give River Jordan every chance in the run.

Grand Cru looks the other main contender with a rise in distance from a good draw under Brett Prebble.

The four-year-old opened his winning account with an every-chance victory over Champion King two starts back before being narrowly beaten last outing by Super Snippets when giving away a massive 15 pounds in weight to the winner.

Prebble will be keen to get a break on his main dangers early in the straight and Grand Cru will be the one they all have to gun down.