Partners sets a sizzling Cup pace
INTERNATIONAL Bowl hero Winning Partners confirmed that he is right on course for his eagerly awaited reappearance in the Centenary Cup with a superb barrier trial win on Sha Tin's all-weather surface yesterday morning.
Reunited with Irish champion Mick Kinane, the Neville Begg-trained gelding was always travelling hard on the bit yet still pulled an effortless five lengths clear of Geoff Lane's speedy Profit Taker who is a very good work horse.
Kinane was delighted by the performance. He said: ''I've always thought this horse's best asset was his high cruising speed and didn't he show that this morning.
''I haven't sat on him for a few weeks what with being injured and all that so it was great to get such a tremendous feel from him. I couldn't be happier with the way that he is going.'' The early pace was set by Profit Taker who is one of the fastest horses in training over the first 400 metres or so.
But Kinane sat parked right behind him with a double handful all the way until Winning Partners took himself to the front shortly after they straightened for home.
The clock underlined what the eye had seen. His winning time of 1 minute 02.7 seconds was a full second faster than the time the morning's other trial was won in by David Oughton's Silent Majority.
That translates to about six lengths. Furthermore, Winning Partner's last quarter of 24.0 seconds was also a second or six lengths faster than Silent Majority's last section.
And all this while still on the bit.
The Centenary Cup down the straight 1,000 metres on Saturday week is the second leg of the new sprint championship series and at level weights it will be very hard indeed for anything to beat him, especially given the form he displayed yesterday morning.
In behind Winning Partners, there was a fair display from Stephen Leung's first-season English import, Look Who's Here, who would have needed this trial.
But then the four-year-old has been rated to a mark of 92 in Class One so he will have to be pretty good if he is going to make any impression in the territory.
John Moore's private purchase griffin Peony went well in fifth.
But Octagon Star, a highly progressive winner of two of his four starts last season for Alex Wong Siu-tan, showed good speed for a long way before tiring quite badly.
There was also plenty of work before the trials with the best Derby gallop appearing to come from Ivan Allan's Wonderful Moment who went much better than his working companion, Wonderful World.
Allan's McBrave also went well, going better than Sterling Town but then Sterling Town has always reserved his best for his races proper.
Peter Ng Bik-kuen's Arman's Sax did not look a boy's ride in his piece when going better than Grand Vefour but wandering around in the process.
Peter Ng's other Derby runner, Smiling, went better than Oriental Power in a strong gallop though the significance of this may well be that Oriental Power, who was only half a length down on the line, is one to note for the future.
Our Pal went smoothly by himself while China Cruise was always holding Crown Commander in his pre-Derby gallop.
River Verdon went strongly to the line under new rider Johnny Marshall as he prepares for his clash with Winning Partners in the Centenary Cup.
First trial: 1, WINNING PARTNERS (M. Kinane); 2, Profit Taker (A. S. Cruz); 3, King's Flair (K. C. Chan). Others (in finishing order): Look Who's Here, Peony, Face The Odds, Electric Power, Gold Concept, Octagon Star, Indian Chetak, Aspire. Time: 1.02.7 (24.0). Distances: 5 lengths, 31/2 lengths. Winner trained by Neville Begg.
Second trial: 1, SILENT MAJORITY (L. F. Chung); 2, Plenty Cash (W. M. Lai); 3, Owner's Success (W. H. Tse). Others: Longain, Sharp Shooter, Karaoke, Shun Wah Treasure, Privy Council, Global King, Aqua Princess, Magician. Time: 1.03.7 (25.0). Distances: neck, 21/2 lengths. Winner trained by David Ougton.