Finding top sprinter a poser for judges
Sunday's Yasuda Kinen leaves the Horse Of The Year honours looking done and dusted and probably with little room for complaint.
While Beauty Flash and Ambitious Dragon each won three Group Ones, two domestic and one international on home soil, Ambitious Dragon holds an edge in that he also performed the feat of winning seven races for the season. And don't underestimate the value of having performed his greatest feats more recently than Beauty Flash, either - many an award is won on the failure of memory to extend back more than a few weeks or months.
With a QE II Cup, a Derby and the Classic Cup, Ambitious Dragon comfortably takes the Champion Middle-Distance horse, Beauty Flash will hold the Miler category with the Hong Kong Mile, Stewards' Cup and Queen's Silver Jubilee and the Stayer category, well, it is perennially strapped to the Champions & Chater, which means Mighty High.
The Champion Sprinter category is where the bumps in the road lie.
Sacred Kingdom has won a Group One and Group Three, but so has Dim Sum, and Sacred Kingdom has been defeated by Dim Sum, Sweet Sanette, Multiglory, One World and others in features.
Ultra Fantasy distinguished himself winning the Sprinters Stakes in Japan - and an overseas win carries weight - but he has been beaten a total of more than 34 lengths in his four domestic runs and 14th, 8th, 11th and 11th has a somewhat modest ring to it for your champion sprinter's last four starts.
Dynamic Blitz won in Dubai on Tapeta, but has only a Class Three win several years ago to his credit on the turf.
Were Sweet Sanette victorious in the King's Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot next week, she has as good a claim as any and would have the benefit of recency but she has been ineffective over anything but 1,000m and that wouldn't change even with an Ascot win.
In past years, dominant forces like Sacred Kingdom and Silent Witness were formalities but no horse has won more than a single Group One this season and none of the contenders has the credentials for what, in reality, looks a vacant title. Perhaps the simple fact of his continued consistency - despite frequent defeats - could get Sacred Kingdom over the line in the vote.
Things have fallen a long way from the world-class prowess Hong Kong sprinters have displayed at the caper in other recent years, and the judges have their work cut out making a watertight case for any horse.