Enthused to show his prowess with return to favourite trip
They call John Size and Douglas Whyte the 'Dream Team', but when the trainers' premiership pacesetter teams up with Whyte's senior compatriot Felix Coetzee, the results are almost equally dreamy. And Size's smart Enthused can improve their partnership further when they combine in the final event today.
Enthused has only won once since arriving from Melbourne and, significantly, he was handled by Coetzee to a strong win over this course and distance in October.
He might have been expensive for punters in the interim, with the biggest price at his last five starts being HK$35 when he drew barrier 13 on March 1, but the main thing to be concerned about this afternoon is that Enthused should get home first.
Coetzee, a champion jockey best known as the permanent partner of the immortal Silent Witness, has ridden for Size 112 times this season and landed the money 23 times. That's a strike rate of 20.5 per cent and it's only fractionally behind Whyte's rate of 22.7 per cent as first-choice jockey for the yard.
As far as Size is concerned, he's in a position of absolute luxury. On the occasions where the leading rider of all time is unavailable, he can call on Coetzee, whose CV boasts three titles as South Africa's champion jockey and more than 620 Hong Kong victories as well.
Enthused turned in a storming performance at Sha Tin on March 9 down the straight 1,000m course, beaten a nose by Always Giggle in a driving finish that was impossible to pick with the naked eye.
He may have been flattened by his exertions there and didn't run up to the form 15 days later when third to Nightlign over 1,200m.
However, with three weeks between races this time, and going back to his winning course and distance - the Sha Tin 1,400m circuit - Enthused should be able to enjoy the run of the race under Coetzee's guidance.
When Enthused ran second last start, the horse that split him and Nightlign was Able Too, a smart British private purchase from the yard of John Moore.
Able Too, as his name may suggest, is one of the string owned by long-time stable stalwart Cornel Li Fook-kwan. Li has something akin to the midas touch in racing, with his team including 2007 Champion Mile hero Able One and multiple Group One winner Able Prince.
Able Too was unbeaten in two starts as a juvenile in England last year, winning over six furlongs at Newbury in August and over seven furlongs at Doncaster three weeks later.
He turned in a superb effort at his local debut, having missed the start by one length and then travelling three wide without cover for the balance of the race.
Nightlign, New Zealand's champion three-year-old last season, enjoyed the run of the race and beat him one length, with Enthused three-quarters of a length away third.
The major issue for Able Too this time is how that hard first-up run has affected him. He wasn't strongly fancied by the stable last time (11-1).
Able Too is a very young horse, a three-year-old to northern hemisphere time. Under the conditions of this race he will carry eight pounds more and the older, stronger Enthused may be better placed under the higher weight scale.
Secret Of Kings, now with the stable of Ricky Yiu Poon-fie, is a runner of interest. He's been thriving under Yiu's tutelage and looked in first-class order on the gallops this week, where his highlight piece was a Thursday riverside in 46.7 seconds, the final 400m in 22.1 seconds.
Gallant Champion's local debut will be watched with interest. The Keeper gelding has not raced since finishing fourth, beaten 11/2 lengths, in the 2007 New Zealand Derby, but has looked stylish in two barrier trials and should have little trouble making a mark over more ground.
Felix Coetzee has ridden for John Size 112 times this season at a success rate of this many in per cent: 20.5