Strong Gain ready to get back into the groove
John Moore can claim another trophy race this afternoon as the three-year-old Strong Gain has the draw to give him the edge in the Lusitano Challenge Cup (1,200m).
Moore's stellar season has seen him win plenty of trophies, big and small, but the with majors all done for this term it's back to the bread and butter of this all-weather Class Two cup event and sprinter Strong Gain (Anthony Delpech) has ticks in all the right boxes.
Unbeaten in his two attempts on the dirt over this trip, Strong Gain could not have been more impressive beating Kaiser's Prize two runs ago by almost three lengths.
Kaiser's Prize has made that form look very solid since.
The only cloud in the blue sky of Strong Gain's form is his last effort when he tackled Happy Valley for the first time, but there is every reason to overlook his 11th behind Sanziro.
On that occasion, Strong Gain bumped heavily with Lucky Unicorn at the start, losing ground, then rider Olivier Doleuze shook him up to give chase and Strong Gain did not seem to travel comfortably at any stage after that.
Unbalanced all the way around on the unfamiliar and quirky track, Strong Gain was never able to show what he really can do and the return to a course where he has been very sound should be the right remedy.
In addition, the gelding has drawn in gate three, while several of his main rivals, including California Prince (Marco Chui Kwan-lai), have drawn off the track.
Good gates and rails-hugging runs have been monotonously crucial on the dirt course this season, and especially when there has been rain around to seal the top of the artificial surface.
While Strong Gain was never crossed on the inside rail at his most recent dirt win, Delpech looks to have a few options with plenty of pace to run if he takes the sit.
The Caspar Fownes-trained Dr Green (Brett Prebble) is another of the dangers and one of the more interesting horses at the meeting.
A very good New Zealand two-year-old, more importantly he held his own in the much tougher juvenile racing of Australia last year then showed he had not lost anything with maturity when he returned at three.
A first-up winner as a three-year-old, he was then beaten narrowly by the current big name in New Zealand racing, Darci Brahma, in October before he was secured for Hong Kong racing.
Fownes looks to have prepared the youngster for a season-end kill and his hollow barrier trial win on May 30 could not have been more impressive - Prebble never let the colt go at any stage as he brushed off inferior rivals on the same surface where he makes his debut this afternoon.
The Tony Cruz-trained California Prince is another unbeaten on the dirt but from gate 11, Chui will have to get him swiftly out like he did last time if he is to be a chance of crossing, but, if he gets over, he will be right there at the finish.