First-time blinkers can get ageing Kingdom back in winning mood
Sacred Kingdom is staring down a Silent Witness-record equalling 18th win when he contests the Group Two Sprint Cup (1,200m) today, and the addition of blinkers for the first time in the ageing sprint king's 29-start career will have him fully focused on the major prize.
Trainer Ricky Yiu Poon-fai and jockey Brett Prebble have pulled an ace from their sleeve with the gear change, and any extra advantage the blinkers give to the seven-year-old should be enough to lift him to the record-equalling win.
Only the legendary Silent Witness, who claimed his first 17 victories in a row, and 1970's hero Super Win have managed to rack up such prolific win tallies - and Sacred Kingdom can join that elite club against a Sprint Cup field he would have eaten for breakfast in his prime.
Should Sacred Kingdom equal the record as expected, a re-match with Singaporean Rocket Man at Kranji may yet be on the cards, particularly after J J The Jet Plane was ruled out earlier this week following a campaign ending suspensory injury to his near foreleg.
Whilst there is no doubt 'The King' has not been at his world dominating best this term, Yiu's stable star still has enough dash to put this domestic opposition to the sword and, from barrier three, Prebble will be ruthless in making sure the end is swift.
Dim Sum got the better of Sacred Kingdom in the Group One Chairman's Sprint Prize (1,200m) on February 5, but history has shown that was a rare result, and Dim Sum must overcome his subsequent foray to Dubai and gate nine to defend it. Derek Cruz has done a great job to patch up Joy And Fun, but he hasn't been the same after his career threatening fetlock injury sustained in the Golden Jubilee at Royal Ascot last June.
Vital Flyer has ability, but has been safely held in his runs at Group Level and is yet to threaten over the Sha Tin 1,200m course. Multiglory is a bold front-runner, but is dropping back from an attempted Derby campaign and is a query against the top graders - especially with speedy Leading City likely to give him little peace in the run.
The John Moore-trained Leading City is in great form, but is no doubt better over the 1,400m course, while stablemate Final Answer is also a chance, but is yet to prove himself against Group company.
John Size has elected to throw Rich Unicorn in the deep end after a puzzling ninth on the all-weather course but, at set weights, he gets five pounds weight relief on Sacred Kingdom, despite being rated 27 points lower by the handicappers.
All things being equal in the run, Sacred Kingdom won't need to rely on a points decision, and the blinkers will ensure the spark he needs to make light work of the knockout.
Perhaps Yiu said it best earlier this week: 'if he's 90 per cent the real Sacred Kingdom, he should win.'
Brett Prebble knows Sacred Kingdom inside out and his strike rate on the Ricky Yiu-trained champion sprinter is: 54%