Sapelli can keep Plate for another season
After yo-yoing in the ratings over the past 12 months, the John Size-trained stayer Sapelli bounces back into the Group Three Premier Plate allotted the same weight he carried to victory in the race last year and can win again, especially with a couple of major rivals drawn wide.
A course and distance specialist, the backmarker scooted around a small field in the 2011 Premier Plate with Eddie Lai Wai-ming aboard to score a short-head victory, but after that his form and rating nose-dived.
Through 14 straight runs outside the top three, among them a last in a Class One over this pet distance, he dropped from a peak of 107 to 93, from where he was able to score in a confidence-building Class Two on a good-to-yielding track.
Size had gone back to blinkers for the first time since the early part of the six-year-old's career, but some felt the cut in the track, which he could get again, had as much to do with the turnaround.
Whatever the case, the chestnut confirmed he was back in form when he ran a solid third behind two of his rivals, Packing OK and Pure Champion, in the Group Three Centenary Vase (1,800m) five weeks ago and is now rated 102, two points higher than this time last year.
Size has shipped in champion South African jockey Felix Coetzee to ride Real Specialist in the Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong Derby and he has been engaged on Sapelli.
The only negative is Coetzee has been given permission to ride two pounds over the minimum 113 pounds, negating some of his advantage, but his big race experience can't be measured.
In this race last year Sapelli nailed Mighty High on the line, who was a 1.6 favourite, this time the John Moore-trained stayer will be long odds but could still play as a vital role in the race. Craig Williams takes the ride on Mighty High and will probably roll across with Super Pistachio (Matthew Chadwick), hopefully ensuring a genuine clip, something that isn't always the case over this trip.
That suits Sapelli more than the two horses finishing ahead of him at his last start, a slowly run Centenary Vase.
Packing OK (Jeff Lloyd) meets Sapelli slightly better at the weights, but he got all the favours when he won. Drawn low again in two, he could get the same sort of pace-stalking soft run and is a chance after being outclassed in the Gold Cup.
Pure Champion (Gerald Mosse), meanwhile, who has proven to be up to this grade after struggling to acclimatise last term, has a few more factors against him this time.
He is one of two horses with a class edge in the race, the other being Caspar Fownes' Thumbs Up (Brett Prebble).
The pair have been given equal top weight of 133 pounds and have drawn the two widest marbles - Pure Champion 11 and Thumbs Up 12.
The 1,800m starting point is a fair one, but the barriers are still a big hindrance to both horses.
Pure Champion can be aggressively ridden, but Mosse's chances of getting a two-wide spot are slim from there if he searches forward, while Prebble may have to resign himself to coming from last on Thumbs Up.
Thumbs Up got the better of Pure Champion when they last met at level weights in the Jockey Club Cup (2,000m) and class gives him edge if picking between those two.
Of the others to be given consideration - Fat Choy Oohlala's best runs are at a mile, and he was a touch disappointing in his only try at this trip, while Jacobee couldn't go with a couple of his key rivals when given every chance last start in the Centenary Vase.
One word of warning with outsider Vaurigard, his last victory - nearly 18 months ago - was at his only try over the course and distance and he beat Irian, when in receipt of just two pounds from the Group One performer.
Felix Coetzee and John Size have enjoyed enormous success in the past with this winning strike rate as a combination