Hong Kong racing fans will see most of their best horses out for the first time this season in the Group 2 Sha Tin Trophy on Sunday but finding the winner could be a minefield.
In a field of 14, seven runners are already Group One winners and dual Horse Of The Year, Ambitious Dragon, kicks off his campaign under new jockey Zac Purton and the top weight in the 1,600m handicap.
He will have as his first serious target this season in either the Hong Kong Mile or Hong Kong Cup in December but trainer, Tony Millard, has warned the 5-time Group One winner is not going to be produced Sunday in the same form as a year ago, when he bolted in the National Day Cup first-up but seemed over the top by the time the internationals arrived.
Millard has taken a different tack and Ambitious Dragon will improve off Sunday’s run. He pointed out that he is starting the horse off a month later, has been unable to give Ambitious Dragon his usual tune up in a trial and the gelding opens his preparation at 1,600m, not 1,400m. So bettors may make the Pins gelding favourite but there will be others backed to beat him.
John Moore has five of the 14 runners including Group One winners Admiration and Zaidan and the hugely-promising Military Attack, but he has been most positive about Brett Prebble’s ride, Irian, who does look one runner who has been squeezed to run well fresh.
John Size has Derby winner Fay Fay and top miler Glorious Days, and said he expects both to be better for the race, as is usual with his horses. Size said Fay Fay still has to prove he belongs in open Group One company, but is hoping his light handicap under Sunday’s conditions will help.
Elsewhere in Asia on Sunday, the highlight will be in Tokyo where the Group One Tenno Sho (Autumn) will be run. The Queen Elizabeth II Cup winner at Sha Tin earlier this year, Rulership, clashes with the exciting three-year-old Fenomeno.
By Nathan Mody