Happy Zero can prove he is the hottest sprinter around
Two years ago it was Sacred Kingdom who landed the Cathay Pacific International Sprint Trial to announce that a new champion had arrived, and the John Moore-trained Happy Zero can take the baton from the same horse at Sha Tin this afternoon.
It's a timeless showdown between established star and the new gun and, with connections of both horses declaring them on top of their game for the clash, the Sprint Trial will be watched around the world by anyone with realistic designs on the Hong Kong Sprint in three weeks.
Happy Zero (Darren Beadman) has been beaten only once in his seven starts, but faces his toughest test.
In terms of the handicapper's ratings, even receiving five pounds from Sacred Kingdom (Brett Prebble), Happy Zero has seven points to make up on the world's joint top-rated sprinter if both run to their exposed form.
Yet his first-up victory over an insufficient 1,000m had a freakish touch that suggested there is another step in Happy Zero, one which he can take this afternoon to give him the edge.
He is the horse with a run under his belt, while Sacred Kingdom takes this race on first-up for five months since his disappointment at Royal Ascot.
Ricky Yiu Poon-fai's sprinter has also had to throw off a shoeing problem that caused him to miss the Sprinters' Stakes in Japan, but for all of that his barrier trial win was everything one would want to see from the gelding to say that he is right on form.
Since the establishment of the Sprint Trial under terms conditions with allowances for non-Group One winners, only Silent Witness has been able to win it with the extra weight. Granted, that is a small sample but it is one more thing in Happy Zero's favour along with the better draw of the pair.
In the Cup Trial last week, the difference between gate six and gate seven was a major tactical advantage for Collection over Viva Pataca.
Provided Happy Zero shows the speed to make the best use of his draw in four, that, too, could be crucial, with every chance that Sacred Kingdom from barrier six will have to sit behind Beadman's mount in running and give him at least that length start.
Honest Inspiration (Gerald Mosse) can be there to pick up the pieces if the great uncertainty of racing plays a hand, but this genuinely looks a race in two, a race to set the scene for what promises to be a vintage version of the Hong Kong Sprint next month.
The John Moore-trained Happy Zero has won six times from seven starts and has earned more than: HK$4.15m