Armada has got what it takes to handle class rise
Unbeaten Armada will prove today whether or not he is the next star of Hong Kong racing when he takes on quality opposition for the first time in his short career in the Wong Cup (1,600m) at Sha Tin.
While there is little doubt that Armada has all the trimmings to propel him to top-level racing, the one lingering doubt at this stage is that the four-year-old is yet to beat anything of note.
As impressive as his debut performance was back in November, the beaten brigade were headed by Lucky Fruit and Red Storm Rising, who have subsequently failed to negotiate Class Three company.
His second start was more devastating when showing a great turn of foot but chasing him home was Spinning City, who still hasn't managed a victory in well over two years.
He was sent out a long odds-on favourite at his last outing and, once again, victory never looked in doubt, but in his wake were Disguise, Sing Fay Fay and Treasure Raiders, who all failed at their next assignments.
Today Armada takes on fellow rising stars Supreme Class and Jiang Jun, who have already shown this season that, by this time next year, they are likely to be competing in better class races and this event therefore shapes up a great test for the Towkay gelding.
Armada is entitled to start favourite and is the horse to beat after coming up with gate one for Douglas Whyte. But on closer inspection, it is likely there will be good value on offer through his main dangers.
While Jiang Jun has not been as dominant in winning his races as Armada, the Dennis Yip Chor-hong-trained gelding has done most of his racing just on raw ability.
It is a credit to his trainer that he has landed three wins and three placings from seven starts, given he has been anything but straightforward when put under pressure, often wanting to make a left-hand turn.
Brett Prebble had his first ride on Jiang Jun on March 19 and the Danske four-year-old was the most tractable he had been in his career, lengthening impressively to defeat Winning Reward, who franked the form by winning his next outing.
So impressed with the performance was Prebble, he said following the victory that Jiang Jun would have little trouble negotiating the rise to Class Two at his next assignment.
'He's a nice horse with a real turn of acceleration, and he'll handle the class rise without a worry,' Prebble said.
The Tony Cruz-trained Supreme Class has been a bit of a slow learner himself but it hasn't stopped him landing three wins from seven starts and it's a record that should probably read better.
The Redoute's Choice colt nearly threw victory away three starts back when wanting to lay out badly under pressure but showed the benefit of that experience at his next outing when scoring in effortless style.
Supreme Class took a quantum leap to Class One at his last start and went out a short-priced favourite but was out of luck in finishing sixth to Good Profit after being held up for the entire length of the straight.
From gate nine today, Felix Coetzee is likely to have Supreme Class right on the speed and with the colt remaining untapped he is sure to provide Armada with a serious challenge despite having to give away five pounds.
Winning Reward is also sure to prove competitive given he has form around Jiang Jun and Supreme Class but regardless of the outcome it's sure to be a race that will provide a strong form reference for many months to come.