Consistent Mossman's class can prevail
King Mossman deserves to have a better record than two wins from 11 starts and gets the chance to fulfil his promise in the Ho Chung Handicap (1,000m).
The John Size-trained four-year-old entered this season rated 80 and jumped eight more points after a three-quarter length upset over Bear Hero on the first day of the term.
The sprinter has had his share of bad luck in six subsequent starts and hasn't added to his win tally. Today he will start near-favourite, more through reputation than any earth-shattering recent form, in a race with only a couple of unknown quantities at this level - one of them Oriental Prosper.
Testament to King Mossman's consistency is that his rating has climbed another six points to 94, despite not winning again.
Early markets were indicative of the race's parity - King Mossman and Oriental Prosper at around 6-1 and no other runner above 21-1.
Bad luck in running aside, King Mossman's last-start fifth was a season-worst effort but if for given, then the gelding appeals as the safest bet in the race.
Previous to the tiring effort over 1,200m behind Majestic Falcon, a closing third behind Eagle Regiment and Blaze King over the Sha Tin 1,000m gave the impression of a horse that perhaps prefers the shorter sprint journey.
On face value, a none-from-three record over the track and distance is a slight concern, but King Mossman has never finished worse than fourth up the straight. There is no advantage by drawing barrier three for jockey Douglas Whyte - he'll be skirting across looking for cover to the preferred grandstand rail, or risk being stranded in the centre of the track and making his own running.
While Oriental Courser has drawn the 'pole' in gate 14, that gate itself can be a major disadvantage - as illustrated vividly in the horse's impressive debut win up the Sha Tin straight.
As Oriental Courser bounced soundly from gate two, race favourite Jade Christy hesitated at the start, was cut out of the running and forced back on the rails and in traffic. From there the horse was forced to chart a path from midfield, which in straight races can be even more difficult than around a turn, with no natural 'fanning' of the field.
Tony Millard's three-year-old seems to have the natural speed required to avoid unnecessary traffic jams, but jockey Mark du Plessis will have to be on guard.
Oriental Prosper gets in with a luxury 118 pounds after a fighting short-head victory over Space Race over this course in Class Three just over three weeks ago.
All of Oriental Prosper's 11 starts in Europe were over five furlongs with the chestnut gelding recording an impressive five wins. The only question marks arise from the three from four record on all-weather surfaces, leaving a less glowing two from seven on the grass, and a lack of black-type quality on the overseas resume.
Oriental Prosper never stepped out in Listed or Group company in England and, while this is Class Two, this race would have far more depth than any field he has faced previously.
The other unknown in the race is the Richard Gibson-trained Diamond Elegance, who starts his Hong Kong career off 85 after a single Britain win from four starts.
Unlike Millard's runner, Diamond Elegance had form over seven furlongs and comes off a narrow second over 1,200m at Listed level.
Two strong trial efforts up the straight, one a win when hard-held on December 13, would have had Gibson searching this race out on the calendar.
If not for an uncharacteristic last-start flop, Eternal Beauty would have far more support, given his straight track credentials. The six-year-old has finished in the money more times than not in a 26-run career, but was 12th behind Eagle Regiment a month ago and pulled up making worrying breathing sounds.
The number of wins John Size has racked up to head the trainers' standings