Whyte's mastery will be the key to Fellowship's success
There's no doubt Fellowship was the proverbial good thing beaten at his last start but the shadow should easily convert to substance this afternoon with a little help from the renowned navigational skills of champion jockey Douglas Whyte.
Fellowship was handled by Glen Boss when fourth to Full Of Joy over 1,600 metres on January 20. The five-year-old was blocked behind the leaders and Boss' decision to not take a tight run on the inside of Tiber (Eric Saint-Martin) in the straight saw his ride become the subject of an adjourned stewards inquiry, with his explanations ultimately accepted.
Fellowship was held up until the race was all over but fairly rocketed to the line in the final 50m, abbreviating the margin with every stride but ultimately going down by a neck to Full Of Joy.
Full Of Joy has since come out and won the Chinese New Year Cup at Sha Tin, absolutely franking the form, and today Fellowship steps up in distance to 1,800m, arguably his optimum trip.
Boss is not on Fellowship this time, instead maintaining his flourishing partnership with gun strike-rate trainer Ricky Yiu Poon-fie with Lotzatow, one of the second or third tier chances in the race.
It's stating the glaringly obvious to say Fellowship will lose nothing with the engagement of Whyte. The Durban Demon is probably the sharpest tactician and from barrier four, he is sure to give Fellowship the run of the race.
While many of these races at 1,800m can be run at a modest tempo, this event should be more truly run, with Jackpot Delight (Christophe Soumillon) likely to take up the early lead before surrendering to Albertinelli (Manoel Nunes), with Being Famous (Thomas Yeung Kai-tong) likely to roll forward and maintain pressure on the leading crew.
While all this is happening, Whyte should be 'smoking his pipe' just forward of midfield and be perfectly positioned to present Fellowship for a winning challenge when it gets to the business end of the race.
When Whyte inevitably looks for his dangers at the 200m, he'd best have a rear-vision mirror because chances are that Olivier Doleuze will be right on his back on Mellifluous.
Whyte will also have a strong respect for the formline around Mellifluous because he defeated the gelding last start on board the John Size-trained Sight Winner.
Having raced just 15 days ago could work in favour of Mellifluous, who raced a fraction too keenly last start and is not guaranteed to run a strong 1,800m. But it's now or never for this smart four-year-old, who has a very powerful finishing sprint when held up for a late run.
The query horse in the race is the John Moore-trained Viva Hong Kong, owned in the same interests as champion Viva Pataca - by Macau casino magnate Stanley Ho Hung-sun.
Viva Hong Kong finished last at his local debut but was found to be suffering a heart irregularity. However, there was no sign of the internal issue last start when he finished eighth to Prime Score on February 9.
Viva Hong Hong looked like he might charge into the race late but hit a traffic snag at the 200m and lost his momentum. Although it could be argued his finishing speed after that check was only fair, the greater likelihood is that the gelding would have been among the prize money earners if he had been afforded clear running.
Viva Hong Kong raced as Kid Mambo in England, where he had eight starts for a win and three minor placings.
Racing Post (UK) marked him as a solid 111-rating horse, and he finished seventh in last year's Epsom Derby, only one placing behind current Hong Kong Derby favourite Helene Mascot.