Two cracking Group One races highlight Sha Tin on Sunday, with outstanding four-year-olds in the Classic Mile while the established older milers fight over the Stewards’ Cup.
Of Hong Kong’s best active gallopers, only the injured Xtension and Akeed Mofeed, staying fresh for the 2,000m of the Gold Cup in February, are missing from the Stewards’ Cup.
John Size has won the race five times and Hong Kong Mile winner Glorious Days will likely be the favourite as he defends his 2013 win in a race most often won by horses defeated on international day rather than the winners.
Hong Kong Mile runner-up Gold-Fun will be out for revenge and Packing Whiz looks a player for Brett Prebble but plenty of eyes will be on the efforts of Dubai-bound Military Attack and Dominant too.
Last season’s four-year-olds took some criticism at the time as too low-rated before the 2013 classics, but they have gone on to make that look foolish as Akeed Mofeed, Gold-Fun and Endowing became three of the very best in town this season.
There is no such questioning of this season’s four-year-olds and leading trainer John Moore openly declares they will soon challenge the top older horses.
Moore has a tremendous hold on the Classic Mile – Flagship Shine, Designs On Rome, Able Friend and Secret Sham already have handicap ratings of 100-plus and their only rival appears to be Dennis Yip’s All You Wish, also rated 103, while the remainder of field are rated 92 or lower and have plenty to find.
Moore has told the media that Tommy Berry’s mount, Designs On Rome will be better over the 2,000m of the Derby, and was reluctant to split Flagship Shines and Able Friend before the draw. That has definitely gone the way of Able Friend with gate six and, with Joao Moreira aboard, he might well start favourite.
By Nathan Mody