All set for showdown of the season

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 15 March, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 15 March, 2009, 12:00am

It's almost two years since Good Ba Ba was beaten in a domestic Group One race, but that doesn't make today's Queen's Silver Jubilee Cup at Sha Tin any less exciting.

In fact, the return match between Hong Kong's world-ranked sprinter Sacred Kingdom and mile supremo Good Ba Ba at the intermediate distance of 1,400m could once again live up to its hype as the race of the season after last year's bout won by Good Ba Ba was far from conclusive.

Whatever happens today this time, the Andreas Schutz-trained Good Ba Ba's place in Hong Kong racing history is secure. He's won six Group One races, the 2008 Horse of the Year title and is the only horse to clean sweep all major mile races in a single season.

On an international rating of 124, he's also the highest-ranked Hong Kong-trained horse of all time.

Ricky Yiu Poon-fie's Sacred Kingdom was headed into similar territory when he brilliantly won the Cathay Hong Kong Sprint in December 2007.

He followed up with another breathtaking win in the Chairman's Sprint Prize but had no luck at all in last year's match with Good Ba Ba in this very race.

It was a crucial race, too, because victory to Good Ba Ba meant four Group Ones for the year, compared to Sacred Kingdom's two, and therefore Horse of the Year honours. If Sacred Kingdom had won it - and video evidence suggests he probably should have - they'd have been three Group Ones apiece and the big end-of-season award would have to have gone his way as well.

But that's all history now as these two great geldings, one year older and having been on different paths for the past 12 months, prepare to look each other in the eye for only the second time.

Their trainers are quietly confident, but far from brash.