The Centenary Vase has largely been carved up between trainers John Size and John Moore since it was raised to Group status just over a decade ago and that looks likely to continue on Saturday at Sha Tin.
In that time, Size has won three times and Moore four times, including three of the last four runnings, and they will provide almost half of the thirteen runners this year.
Last seasons’ winner, Moore-trained Packing Ok was scratched after fields were declared on Thursday, but that still leaves him with four runners in Military Attack, Irian, Dan Excel and Same World. The underrated Dan Excel looks the best of them, coming off a Group One second to Glorious Days in the Stewards Cup last time out and a fourth in the Hong Kong Cup prior to that.
Dan Excel has never carried the fanfare of some of his stablemates but keeps running well at the highest level, so the drop back in grade may see him back amongst the winners.
Size has two runners, but both serious chances, Real Specialist and last year’s Derby winner, Fay Fay. They both turned in solid efforts behind Glorious Days in the Stewards’ Cup too, but look well placed back into handicap class.
This year’s Derby picture might become clearer after Saturday’s racing, too, with Richard Gibson’s third-string four-year-old, Mizani, back in action in race seven after an impressive debut win and Moore presents his second Derby hopeful, Poetic Justice, in the same race.
Poetic Justice has drawn wide and may be better for the race, but Mizani looks one of the best chances in the race, along with Zac Purton’s ride, Let Me Handle It, who backs up in the Class Two mile after strong-finishing Class One second 1,400m Sunday.
By Nathan Mody