In-form Island Speed up for his biggest challenge
It won't be as cut and dried as his last two wins, but promising sprinter Island Speed still looks the one they all have to beat in the Sports Club Diamond Jubilee Challenge Cup (1,000m) at Happy Valley tonight.
The Peter Ng Bik-kuen-trained Island Speed (Anthony Delpech) has been hoisted nine points in the ratings at each of his past two outings at the Valley after putting healthy margins between himself and the opposition.
On each occasion, the three-year-old has put the race beyond his opponents early, showing blistering speed from the gates to lead against the rail and then carry his strength through to the post in fast times.
He now finds himself nearing Class Two and somewhat higher in the weights than when he carried 119 pounds to beat Flying Sprinter (Simon Yim Hin-keung) over this course on March 14, but that shouldn't be enough to stop him this time against a field of solid rather than promising sprinters.
But it may slow him down a little and so might the shift from a low gate to barrier 10.
Island Speed will also have to contend with considerable pace in the shape of Reunion (Way Leung Ming-wai) and Good To Go (Douglas Whyte) which will make him work a little more with the bigger weight but, importantly, the pacey Flying Sprinter is still drawn outside him.
Reunion may have the early speed to keep Island Speed off the fence, but the latter should still be able to position himself outside the David Hall-trained galloper at the least, giving Flying Sprinter a headache in having to sit wide on his outside or steady behind.
That edge at the draw should be enough to get Island Speed home, but the three-year-old will need to have something left to hold off any latecomers in the final 100m.
The most prominent of those may be Glory Years (Eric Saint-Martin), who returned to his best last time when second to Bear Macho.
With a better gate himself, Glory Years would have posed a very strong threat, but barrier eight might force Saint-Martin to give a little more start.
Lightly-weighted Salut Beaute (Marco Chui Kwan-lai) may not be quite as comfortable at 1,000m as 1,200m, but he goes to an inside gate for the first time in a while in barrier five, and could be the improver of the race.