There's more in store for Zezao
Given the heartache he has caused punters in the past three seasons, it is easy to forget Zezao was once a promising import kicking off his career in Class Three, a grade he is rapidly re-approaching under the astute guidance of rookie trainer Richard Gibson.
It has been well-documented how Gibson has taken the six-year-old from problem child to poster child and exhibit A of the Englishman's ability to transform underperformed Class Four and Five gallopers into multiple-winners.
He has managed the feat with Easy Gold, Super Caga and Great Renown, but there has been no better advertisement of his skills than the rehabilitation of Zezao, and the horse might not have found his ceiling yet.
Zezao chases his third straight victory and can overcome a wide draw in a Class Four (1,400m), which acts as the final leg of a tough Triple Trio and carries a HK$1.8 million jackpot.
After an educational effort coming off the speed in a 1,000m straight race, Zezao knocked over a Class Five with ease, before heading into a Class Four where he showed off his new-found race sense.
With Jeff Lloyd in the saddle, Zezao was asked to make a tactical move early in the race, speeding along the rails to be closer to the leaders. The old Zezao would have overraced and not come back to Lloyd, but the gelding settled again and then finished off with aplomb.
Not only is Zezao now a better horse at finding his feet, the more genuine tempo in the higher grades is helpful, as he doesn't have to curb his natural athleticism to find cover and rhythm.
The two victories over this course and distance have cost the horse a total of 16 ratings points, taking him to the same mark as a new Private Purchase Griffin (52), and still 29 points shy of where he started in 2009.
His initial assessment was courtesy of a promising English record, including a Listed win as a juvenile, and recent classy wins indicate upside and more to come. With Douglas Whyte back in the saddle, he can beat an average field, even from gate 11.
Creating pace will be Solar Boy (Ben So Tik-hung), who can be tough to get by when not pressured, with Ekraar Emperor (Matthew Cadwick) handy, too. They are both a big chance of sticking on for the minors and should be considered.
An eight-year-old with a record of five wins from 75 who has raced in Class Five doesn't scream 'progressive', but Sohna (Tye Angland) is racing in such good spirit he has to be included.
The Ricky You Poon-fai-trained veteran has an incredible place strike rate (top three 30 from 75), and has won two from his last three, the loss a closing last-start second to subsequent winner G-One Winning.
David Hall has gone back to blinkers for Soldier (Terry Wong Chi-wai), who has drawn three and gets the rights sort of race for him to swoop. It's tough to find an in-form horse in most Class Fives, but the opening leg over 1,200m sees a couple of impressive last-start winners for whom the penny may have dropped.
Mr Award (So) was heavily punted at Happy Valley last time out and won accordingly. From gate five he looms as the best banker.
The other last-start victor, Caspar Fownes' Flying Keeper (Damien Oliver), didn't fare as well at the draw (13) but can still be counted on to run a race.
A nice-looking horse getting closer and racing consistently is Hall's Racing Legend, with the engagement of Whyte adding credibility to his claims.
The way Zac Purton is riding at the moment, he could win on a broomstick, he jumps from gate three on General Danroad and isn't without a show, while Take By Storm (Chadwick) drops in grade and could figure.
The middle pin features four first-starters and a couple of other relative newcomers, providing plenty of uncertainty.
Whyte appears to have pulled the right rein in picking up the ride on Tony Millard's Hot Asset. He just missed last time round and was runner-up to Mentor before that, so he can go one better against a weak field.
Twin Turbo (Olivier Doleuze) was disappointing last start, but can be included by default, with other options really a toss-up. There's nothing to take on trust, but Country Charm (Angland), The Fast Lane (Alex Lai Hoi-wing) and Toast For Trophy (Jacky Tong Chi-kit) are options.