Little Bridge has solid foundations
The blink-and-you'll-miss it nature of the HK$14 million Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Sprint (1,200m) means everything has to go the winner's way.
A half-step slow out of the gates, jockey error or simple bad luck in running equals 'race over' in the most frantic and unpredictable of the Group Ones on International Day.
Little Bridge is the bomb-proof runner, with the least black marks against his name.
Drawn three with big-race specialist Gerald Mosse aboard, Little Bridge can get the run of the race, with the Frenchman looking to be handy but seeking cover and a trail.
Little Bridge has the gate speed to take a position, but just has importantly, has proven he is relaxed enough to win up to 1,400m.
The five-year-old was taken on a ill-advised Derby campaign in 2010-11 which could have hurt the horse, but he has bounced back hard this term.
A first-up second on day one of the season was followed by a ninth in the Sha Tin Sprint Trophy over an unsuitable 1,000m, where he never got a clear crack at the winner.
Then Danny Shum Chap-shing's flier really hit his straps. He was nabbed by a lightly-weighted Rich Unicorn in the Premier Bowl, but in the process held Entrapment at bay.
He proved his versatility in the Group Two Jockey Club Sprint when getting the drop on the highly-fancied Entrapment once again. Mosse took advantage of the better barrier and the length advantage he held in the run proved decisive at the line.
Mosse claims he had more horse left as he cruised to the three-quarter of a length win, but he won't be leaving anything in the tank today.
Entrapment looms again as the main rival and a win would top John Size's superb training effort to produce the horse for a first-up win after a 15-month break on National Day.
Since that memorable victory, Entrapment's unbeaten bubble burst and he has shown some chinks in his armour. In two losses he has lacked a killer punch in the finish and shown a propensity to overrace when faced with a slackening speed. Slow sectionals aren't likely this time and there is a big chance the masterful Size has left that extra 10 per cent in reserve for today.
Another local runner looking for an extra few lengths is Admiration, who in truth seems like a 1,400m horse. Darren Beadman gave him a walloping when third in the Jockey Club Sprint, indicating he was near bottomed out, and John Moore's move to blinkers seems like a hopeful, rather than necessary, gear change.
Lucky Nine doesn't lack anything in class, but the fact this is his first domestic run means he could be rusty. The rest of the locals fall into the categories 'out of form' or 'need luck' - Green Birdie the former, and Rich Unicorn and Joy And Fun the latter.
The two highest-rated runners - Rocket Man and Sacred Kingdom - are the two widest drawn and both seem on the down slide of their illustrious careers.
The Japanese duo, Curren Chan and Pas de Trois, have had what should be a simple four-hour trip turn into a nightmare. A 12-hour delayed flight 10 days before the race is enough of a turn-off to look elsewhere.
English sprinters are hardly known for their international forays and the trio here look safely held.
That leaves Little Bridge as the steadfast selection in a high-class race.
The prize money, in HK dollars, Little Bridge has collected for his owner so far