All looks well for Hayes team
David Hayes hasn't managed to conjure a win out of Native Dream from eight starts but that may be all set to change at Sha Tin this afternoon where the talented gelding can notch his first win in style by capturing the $2.3 million Centenary Vase.
There is no question Native Dream has been unlucky not to have won on more than one occasion, predominantly over shorter distances than would be ideal for this staying type.
The well-bred son of Zabeel clearly didn't take a liking to the tight city circuit last time, when well beaten by Floral Dynamite, but the run is best ignored.
The move back to Sha Tin is a major bonus, along with the step up to 2,000 metres. Last season, he narrowly failed to win and should have beaten stablemate Beethoven on his first and only attempt over today's course and distance.
His best display came on International Day when finishing second to Palette Natural over 1,800m in the Dublin Handicap. He would have gone very close to beating John Size's horse but for being steadied about 250m from the line. He gets the chance to reverse the form on Palette Natural today with a six pound swing in his favour.
Crack Australian jockey Corey Brown has landed the ride aboard Native Dream, and although he has drawn awkwardly (gate 14), he is more than likely going to drop out and shouldn't be forced to cover too much extra ground.
At worst, the pace should be good in this event, the likes of Beethoven, Come See You and Floral Dynamite all likely to ensure a decent tempo. The pace is a key factor for Native Dream who would find if difficult to win if the pace was slow. Hayes has a solid each-way chance with Beethoven, who returns to the track after finishing a creditable seventh to Phoenix Reach in the Hong Kong Vase.
His record over the course and distance is solid with two wins and a minor place from five starts, and if he isn't pressured in the lead, will take some beating.
The main threat is expected to come from another son of Zabeel, Derby hopeful Vengeance Of Rain. He was an impressive after resuming from a break, when beating Grand Zulu over the Sha Tin mile. This is a step up in grade officially, but the reality is he meets similar quality opposition. The move up to the Derby distance should be highly suitable.
Size's sole entry Palette Natural deserves plenty of respect following his third to Bullish Luck in the Stewards' Cup over the Sha Tin mile.
He is as consistent as they come but conceding weight all round today makes his job that much harder, and he appeals more as a place chance.
Much the same applies for Caspar Fownes-trained Saturn, who has hit form recently, including a fourth to Bullish Luck in the Stewards' Cup. Providing he settles kindly for Olivier Doleuze, he should make the most of a good draw and can hit the frame.
Fownes' Himalaya was convincingly beaten by Vengeance Of Rain last time and given he strikes stronger opposition, he is hard to recommend.
David Oughton has a couple of decent entries with Precision and Roosevelt, both capable of winning if able to produce their best form. The former is certainly a place chance given some consistent performances over the past six weeks and he should make the most of a low draw.
Roosevelt is unplaced from seven starts, but is fitter now and striking weaker opposition.
If the heavens open up then Dennis Yip Chor-hong's Industrial Success has to be considered a top chance, but he is first-up after a two month break and race-hardened opposition are preferred.
Stablemate Red Pepper won the race last year but isn't the force of old, even though he is becoming well handicapped. It would be hard to make a case for him at this point.
In-form trainer Tony Cruz has Floral Dynamite, who will attempt to land back-to-back wins following a tenacious victory at Happy Valley earlier this month. He is a risk over this trip and given he is facing stronger opposition this time, is best left out of calculations.
Agility has left the impression he has reached his limit in the ratings for the time being, while Luckswell probably needs a little relief before being entertained as a winning chance.
Come See You is gradually racing himself into fitness, but should need at least one more run before being followed.