Voile Rouge can take centre stage
The John Size-trained Voile Rouge may be an unknown on the treacherous all-weather, but he ticks every other box ahead of today's Broadwood Handicap (1,650m) at Sha Tin.
With no trophy race, the Broadwood - which is essentially a Class Two - is the strongest class race of the day and sees Voile Rouge tackle the artificial surface for the first time.
The five-year-old was well tried in Australia with David Hayes, where he won three times in 16 starts but he was in the first four another seven times and consistency and adaptability were his hall mark.
Voile Rouge (Douglas Whyte) struck at the third time of asking here, winning over 1,400m on the Sha Tin turf, then was again a sound enough run at that distance when third to Noble Alpha.
But Size suggested after Voile Rouge's win 1,400m may be as short as he wants and, with just a modest tempo last time, he was outdashed at that distance. Stepping up to 1,650m looks an ideal progression for the Encosta de Lago gelding, especially with a low draw which he has the speed to use to good effect.
Just Fantastic, Mighty Sun and possibly Happy Reunion look to be going forward early but there doesn't look an oversupply of speed, which should suit a horse like Voile Rouge as he won't have too much trouble taking up a very handy spot behind them.
Will he handle the all-weather? Well, there are his four barrier trials to suggest he will, and the fact that Voile Rouge had some good soft ground form in Australia prior to his importation.
And there's the very salient argument the surface can't be held against him until he has shown he doesn't handle the all-weather or the kickback.
Last week Size took a feature race upset win with Rich Unicorn and jockey Mark du Plessis providing the steering, and Du Plessis looks the trainer's main opposition in the strongest race on today's card.
The David Ferraris-trained St Didar has proved more than handy on the dirt surface, but virtually always over sprint courses. His breeding has always suggested he would be at least as effective over this trip with maturity but he often raced keenly at the shorter trips and was thus not tried over longer.
Ferraris rolled the dice in July and St Didar finished third in a staid performance ridden closer over this course, though it was not his best form and, coming on a wet track at the end of his season, perhaps he can't be judged on that. His two runs at sprints have been excellent since the break and, with no weight, he looks a serious danger. Also a danger and an unknown at the extended mile is last-start all-weather winner, Withinmyheart (Keith Yeung Ming-lun), who relegated St Didar to sixth. Withinmyheart has raced well at every one of his six starts for Gary Ng Ting-keung, after winning two from two in the Britain as a two-year-old.
His win first-up caught many unaware, as shown by his 23-1 odds, but he should not be underestimated with a light weight, despite the extra distance and a slightly-awkward draw.
He is a reasonably fast, one-paced type of horse, who led and ran his rivals ragged over 1,400m at his second run in Britain. That was the furthest trip over which he has been tried and it couldn't be argued on that evidence that he is certain to fail at the mile.
The number of wins John Size has racked up to top the trainers' table