Cup at Allan's mercy
Superb stayer Indigenous has the final leg of the Triple Crown, the long-established Champions and Chater Cup, completely at his mercy at Sha Tin today.
So absolute is his mastery of major distance events that only six challengers take him on in what is essentially a disappointing turnout for one of the major races on the calendar.
Indigenous, who has been turned from a good Irish handicapper into a horse capable of almost certainly winning in Group Two company over the right trip, is officially rated at 139.
That puts him 11 points ahead of his nearest challenger, the David Hayes-trained Smashing Pumpkin, and a staggering 47 points ahead of Big Mac.
Over 2,400 metres it is simply impossible to oppose Indigenous at set-weights and this is, in reality, a race to watch and admire a quality stayer in action. Indigenous has had the perfect preparation for this race, as one would expect from a horse prepared by champion trainer Ivan Allan.
He comes into this event off the back of a win scored over 1,600 metres. That was in the Sha Tin Futurity Trophy where he accounted for Derby winner Johan Cruyff to the tune of a length and a quarter.
The mile trip would not be considered optimum for Indigenous but he had little trouble coming from the rear of the field under regular rider, Basil Marcus, and cutting down all opposition in the concluding stages.
Naturally enough, he was powering away at the line.
It was a particularly good effort as Allan did not have a lot of time to freshen him up after his fourth placing behind stablemate Oriental Express in the 2,000-metre Queen Elizabeth II Cup.
With that winning run under his belt, Indigenous simply comes into this 2,400-metre contest looking virtually unbeatable.
Smashing Pumpkin looked like being a major player in the leading ranks in Hong Kong during his first season but he has not quite scaled those heights.
There were suggestions of a return to form when he finished fourth in the Gold Cup, second leg of the Triple Crown, but it was not sustained in the QEII Cup.
In this smaller field, he is clearly a major chance of finishing in the first three but punters betting solely on the quinella may want to stick with one of the season's bigger improvers.
That's Golden Duke who has certainly answered up in recent runs to all that's been put to him.
Trainer Brian Kan Ping-chee has been enjoying a lucrative, late-season run and Golden Duke has played his part. The handicapper, possibly slightly annoyed by a couple of sterling efforts, hiked him up 12 points after a last start win.
He is still not rated anywhere near Indigenous and is untested at this extreme distance for Hong Kong horses but still appears to have scope for improvement. He is certainly worth consideration.
The best days of Privilege are behind him and his recent form is poor. The distance would clearly suit, as will the smaller field but it is difficult to really suggest him on his recent record.
One horse definitely in better form is Derby winner, Che Sara Sara.
Having recovered from an injury which could have spelt his end, Che Sara Sara has produced some good runs of late, not least his last when, ridden closer to the pace, he finished two lengths fifth to Oriental Express in the QEII Cup. It was a solid effort.
The distance could be a problem and more public attention may be paid to the other runner from the David Oughton stable, Victory Star.
The English import will be ridden by Alan Munro, who takes over next season as stable jockey to Oughton.
Apprentice-ridden on his last two starts, Victory Star may well appreciate a senior rider like Munro but there must also be a question mark over the trip. He does not really look bred to get it.
Big Mac simply has no chance.
Ultimately, it should simply be a case of watching Indigenous capture the end-of-season staying prize and confirming his position as the leading stayer in training.
Chasing him home? Try Golden Duke and Smashing Pumpkin.