The Chinese New Year Cup has already launched some successful Group One careers, but fans of the John Size-trained Glorious Days will have to hold on for another six weeks to see if he can take the same step up after keeping his unbeaten record intact by only centimetres.
Size had elected to rely on his other top four-year-old, Fay Fay, in the Classic Mile and tackle the Class One Chinese New Year Cup with Glorious Days (Douglas Whyte), which enabled him to stay at the 1,400m course and to keep his usual rider.
Glorious Days was a dominant favourite again, but there was nothing effortless about this win, with the gelding's wheels spinning badly in the rain-softened ground cut up from the nine races beforehand.
In contrast to previous starts, Whyte was chasing the favourite along to keep his position and he looked to have too much to do when Bullish Champion (Maxime Guyon) had slipped well clear at the 200m mark. While his effort to land the prize in the final stride had Glorious Days' fans breathing a little harder, Whyte said the battling victory filled in one of the blanks with the gelding.
'He's won so easily every time, the one thing John and I had discussed was how he would handle it when a fight did present itself - whether he would put up his fists and box back,' Whyte said.
'Well, he answered that today. I don't think he is ever going to handle a rain-affected track. He was struggling to get his toe in and was off the bit from the word go. When the gates opened, I was immediately under pressure to have him where he was let alone any closer. When we turned for home, he let down tremendously, but it was a little bit of an effort to get to the post, which I put down to the track, he just couldn't get comfortable.'
Glorious Days will get the chance to show how ready he is for the big time next run.
'With the rating he'll have, there isn't another race available until the Queen's Silver Jubilee Cup on March 3, but that looks the race to take on the Group One horses,' said Size (pictured). 'He showed plenty of character to get the leader down today when things weren't suiting him.'
The path from the Chinese New Year Cup to Group One glory is not a new one, as the 2004 winner, Figures, went on to win the Champions Mile the same season, Joyful Winner (2006) won the Queen's Silver Jubilee Cup three starts later and Good Ba Ba (2007) used the race as a stepping stone to his brilliant career as one of the greatest milers Hong Kong has produced.
Size closed out the day with a horse who relished the little bit of give underfoot as well as a return to the 1,800m course he seems to love, when Sapelli (Vincent Ho Chak-yiu) finished off well to win the final race.
'He was three wide with some cover and that seems to be his preferred position,' said Size. 'When he hit the front it was over because he loves a fight and I can't remember him being beaten once he gets to the lead. He's been a terrific horse with eight wins, it isn't easy to find the right races for him these days but he doesn't owe anybody anything.'