The chips are down for smart Irish stayer Supreme Bases as he attempts to make it three on end and win the P&O Challenge Cup at Sha Tin today.
Patience has paid good dividends for trainer David Hill, who brought in the son of leading stallion Sadler's Wells last season but gave him plenty of time to acclimatise.
Although he ran late last season, it was not until Hill had brought him back this season after a short let-up that Supreme Bases really began to show his worth.
Trained in Ireland by Dermot Weld, Supreme Bases had a decent record before export and he has clearly blossomed this season under Hill.
He was backed right down to win a lower-grade event two starts back and easily accounted for a fair field in a 2,200-metre race that was absolutely ideal for him.
Supreme Bases quickened up under Paddy Payne soon after they swung for home and gave nothing else a chance.
Hill then switched Supreme Bases to Happy Valley last time and brought him back to 1,800 metres. It looked a more difficult assignment and his price of 5.7-1 reflected that.
It was also a very handy ride for Stanley K. M. Chin, who took over because Payne could not do the weight. Although the distance and the tighter track seemed to be against him, Supreme Bases shot away in the straight to win with just as much ease as in his previous start in lesser company.
The scalps he claimed that night included Pinky Long Legs and Legitimate while Lucky Partners and China Cruise, who were in the field that night, re-oppose here but have little discernible chance of turning the tables.
But this is the acid test for Supreme Bases as he takes on former Derby winner Che Sara Sara and the Tony Cruz-trained Deauville. Topweight Mazal and Smart Kid make it easily the toughest field Supreme Bases has faced.
Che Sara Sara looks the biggest threat over this 1,800-metre trip and the David Oughton-trained galloper ran well over 1,600 metres last time when ridden much closer to the pace. He went under by the minimum margin to Indigenous, which is form in the purple.
Che Sara Sara has been set for this race by Oughton and will prove a tough one to crack with Eric Saint-Martin also desperately looking for a winner.
Deauville is not quite the horse he was despite showing glimpses of past form and will find it hard against a potential rising star like Supreme Bases while Mazal, under Win L. F. Chung, will find it hard to be at his best over this trip.
Smart Kid should run a stout race under Alan Munro and is far from out of it.