Happy start for Starke points to Samum chance

As the fireworks of the week blazed high here last night, the rain-filled sky provided a portent that when the last international gathering of the year is held on Sunday it may be Samum who is crowned as global champion.

As the fireworks of the week blazed high here last night, the rain-filled sky provided a portent that when the last international gathering of the year is held on Sunday it may be Samum who is crowned as global champion.

The German horse failed in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe and there may be several ahead of him in the general perception but he, at least, has survived to season's end. Victory in the Hong Kong Cup at Sha Tin this weekend would guarantee him a place as Daylami's successor at the head of the Emirates World Series.

Last night's rain will be no barrier to the colt's chances and neither will the form of his jockey, Andrasch Starke, who this year celebrated his third successive domestic jockeys' championship. The German also followed Olivier Peslier and Frankie Dettori into the record books yesterday when wins on Po On Power and Millennium Sup-reme propelled him to victory in the International Jockeys' Championship at Happy Valley.

Happy Valley is perhaps the most arresting racecourse in the world, situated as it is in the centre of Hong Kong. Imagine Chester surrounded by skyscrapers and apartment blocks under searchlights and you go some way to understanding its appeal.

The grass circuit is just 1,450 metres round. The claustrophobic track is shaped, appropriately enough, like a horse's head, with the sharp contours coming around the final two bends into the straight. Only the most daring leave their challenge until late.

And only the fittest survive in these parts. The former colony has a considerable turnover in both jockeys and trainers. Pedigree elsewhere counts for nothing here unless it is restated.

Peter Chapple-Hyam, the Derby-winning trainer, continues to struggle to establish his star in this quite different firmament. There was no winner for him last night.

The Hong Kong International Races which will be held further out of town at Sha Tin on Sunday are now claimed to be the most cosmopolitan series for leading horses, a meeting point for top thoroughbreds from the northern and southern hemispheres.

But while the quality may be present, but the unheralded can still travel an attempt to gather a huge prize. Yesterday morning witnessed such an incongruous British team at work.

A glorious sight on the Sha Tin gallops was the geriatric wrestle between George Duffield and Perryston View, who will provide one of the most experienced partnerships in world racing in Sunday's Sprint.

The two have a combined age of 62, with 54 of those years being provided by old George. The human-horse equation suggests Perryston is at about the same stage of life, but there was little concord between the veterans as they steamed around the circuit.

"He got his silly head on this morning," Duffield said. "He got his tongue over the bit and was an eight-year-old behaving like a two-year-old.''

Perryston View might imagine that he will soon be on his way to either the police force or a riding school and the realisation that he is still a racehorse proved quite intoxicating. "I didn't expect him to get an invite here so had turned him away," Jeremy Glover, the trainer, said. "He's had five weeks in a field roughed-off.

"At home, he's very laid back but when he gets somewhere like this he gets on his toes. Don't forget that in most of his runs first time out he has won."

If the horse was intoxicated then so were his owners, Kenneth and Janis Macpherson. The Ayr hoteliers may be used to sea breezes, but this is a different vintage. "We've had many good handicappers," Kenneth said, "but Perry is the first horse that's won a Group race. For a small owner to come here is amazing."

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