Talented Beauty Flash has everything made to order
The question to be resolved in this afternoon's Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong Derby Trial (1,800m) at Sha Tin looks less about whether Beauty Flash will be the winner than whether the distance will expose any chinks in his armour for the main event.
The Tony Cruz-trained four-year-old towers above his rivals in the handicapper's ratings and has everything made to order to add the HK$3 million Group Two Derby Trial to his Classic Mile and take his record to seven wins from eight Hong Kong starts.
Beauty Flash (Christophe Soumillon) takes his first step beyond 1,600m and his Derby rivals will be hoping that dulls his brilliance or at least show signs that another 200m in a few weeks will bring him back to the field.
But the character of the 1,800m course in general, and the race in particular, is a race tailor-made for the chestnut, whether he ultimately stays or not.
The closest parallel is another Cruz-trained star in Floral Pegasus, who won the Classic Mile and Derby Trial in 2007 despite question marks on his staying powers. He had simply too much quality and strolled in with the Trial after a trot and canter tempo, but was narrowly found out in the Derby, swamped by Vital King, who had been left three lengths behind in the Derby Trial.
Beauty Flash faces a similar assignment to the task he completed so comfortably in the Classic Mile - few realistic rival leaders other than stablemate, Straight Forward, and a lack of early pressure that will be in his favour.
Of course, all that can change if another runner breaks pattern but, as a lead-up to a Group One staying test worth more than four times the stake of this race, that would be a rarity as all rivals will have an eye on the grand final.
Had the Caspar Fownes-trained Super Satin (Douglas Whyte) drawn better than gate 11, he might have been a serious threat over the final 200m but, from the draw, he may not be within range.
The John Moore-trained Irian (Darren Beadman) has drawn better in gate six, but he may still be a run off his very top and is also normally held up for the finish.
Even the favourite's well-credentialled stablemate Super Pistachio (Felix Coetzee) is drawn to be handy, but he still has 41/2 lengths to wipe off for their last meeting and he didn't actually take ground off Beauty Flash at the mile.
The bottom line is that Beauty Flash holds all the aces again but, as a trial for the Derby, only defeat will answer any of the big questions.
Beauty Flash has been one of the finest discoveries this season and he has already earned: $8.5m