All eyes on Sacred Kingdom again
World champion Sacred Kingdom's stunning return up the straight was enough to confirm he is back as big as ever and that makes the bay the one to beat in the race of the season so far at Sha Tin this afternoon.
The Group Two Cathay Pacific Jockey Club Sprint promises to remove some of the questions about next month's Hong Kong Sprint, with the dress rehearsal looking as tough to win as the Group One to come.
The race has everything, from the return match between Sacred Kingdom (Brett Prebble) and Singapore's idol, Rocket Man (Felix Coetzee), to the entry into silk class by exciting youngsters Lucky Nine, Little Bridge and Let Me Fight and the rock-solid consistency of Cerise Cherry and One World.
Whatever else turns up for the Hong Kong Sprint, this looks the form line for it and justifies the slightly controversial promotion of the race to international Group status during the summer.
For all the fascinating byplays, though, the Ricky Yiu Poon-fai-trained Sacred Kingdom looked back to his four-year-old form when he trucked into the Sha Tin Sprint Trophy under 133 pounds like it was a barrier trial.
The win left no doubt Sacred Kingdom came through his colic-enforced break without ill effect, and perhaps the good rest itself revitalised him.
And with speedsters like Our Lucky Baby and Multiglory engaged, Sacred Kingdom should get the set-up that has always suited him best - a solid tempo and the chance to sit back and unleash his brilliant acceleration in the final 250m.
What the brilliant visitor, Rocket Man, has in his favour is his ability to take a more forward position than Sacred Kingdom. Most likely he will trail the fastest horses early, then kick at the top of the straight and may at least gain a better break than he did last year at Kranji when Sacred Kingdom came off his back to beat him a neck in their only meeting.
But he may need the extra break, too, as Sacred Kingdom looks to be going better than he was back then and there is the question of Rocket Man going right-handed for the first time.
While Little Bridge and Lucky Nine will have admirers, the John Moore-trained One World (Darren Beadman) still looks the usual suspect as a dark horse, even though his last win is now almost two years ago.
He is never uncompetitive in these races, even at level weights and, with the five-pound allowance, the six-year-old gets the circumstances to cause a boilover himself.
Sacred Kingdom, who has won 16 times, unleashed a brilliant kick in the final quarter of the Sha Tin Sprint Trophy: 21.96