Rising star Let Me Fight can end Sacred Kingdom's reign
It's a new lunar year, time is calling for champion Sacred Kingdom and the John Moore-trained Let Me Fight can end the great gelding's domestic domination in the Group One Chairman's Sprint Prize (1,200m) at Sha Tin today.
With 17 wins, three annual titles as the world's best and almost HK$43 million in the bank, Sacred Kingdom owes nobody anything but he faces his toughest test to hold on to his throne.
The resume of Let Me Fight (Darren Beadman) reads far more modestly at one local win from nine tries and less than HK$3.4 million in stakes, but the four-year-old has youth on his side and that could be the great leveller.
On face value, Moore's sprinter was a disappointment as hot favourite when second to Little Bridge over 1,400m last time under handicap conditions that should have played right into his hands. But weights are not everything.
Fired out early, Let Me Fight burned energy keeping in touch through a very quick second section, then fought Beadman when the tempo did back off on the circle from the 800m to the 400m. The energy he spent in those sections was why the gauge dropped to empty so fast after he looked to have the race won at the 200m.
Prior to that, he sat outside Sacred Kingdom in the Hong Kong Sprint, the champion got a slight break on him when he accelerated at the 300m but Let Me Fight held his ground to the line, finishing three-quarters of a length behind his rival.
This race sets up differently, with Let Me Fight (gate six) likely to use no early energy to trail the four pace horses all drawn under him. Sacred Kingdom, from three gates wider, shapes to be behind Let Me Fight in the run.
His latest form shows he still has a potent turn of foot which may see him join and even head Let Me Fight in the straight, but the part of the Sacred Kingdom's races which has been raising alarm has been the finish, and the question is whether he sustains long enough to reach the post in front.
While early betting might be calling this a match race, that is arguable and Let Me Fight's stablemate, One World (Jeff Lloyd), is the forgotten factor.
Only three runs back, he dead-heated with Rocket Man over this trip, then had well-documented fitness issues even before he blew the start in the Hong Kong Sprint.
His fifth up the straight since behind Sacred Kingdom was tradesmanlike but over a course that has not been his best, and a well run 1,200m suits better.
Let Me Fight has a long way to go to catch Sacred Kingdom in the stakes race, but the four-year-old has plenty of races ahead of him: HK$3.4m