Reliable Billion Delight is looking in good shape these days and Australian jockey Glen Boss will be facing next Wednesday's featured St Andrew's Challenge Quaich with optimism.
In a busy morning at Sha Tin yesterday, a number of gallopers likely to be involved on the all-weather card in midweek went through their paces, several of them impressively.
Billion Delight is definitely ready and when Boss let him stride along he met with a ready response from a horse who, over the past couple of seasons, has been a great money spinner for the Wong Siu-tan stable.
The overall gallop was clocked at 1:23.0 and Billion Delight didn't look extended in cutting out a good time. He comes into the Quaich down a couple of pounds and on an attractive galloping weight of 120 pounds.
In what could turn out to be a good race on the dirt, there were also worthwhile performances from Toymark and Universal Winner.
The latter was ridden by French jockey Dominique Boeuf who may come in for a few rides on the programme from high-flying Francis K. W. Lui.
Boeuf, runner-up to Olivier Peslier in the French championship, said: 'I have been to Hong Kong several times because there are always French jockeys here but I have not ridden here on a contract like this before.
'I am here to do the best I can and I hope that there will be enough trainers to give me rides so that I can win. I can only wait and see.' Compatriot Freddie Sanchez comes to the end of his stint on January 31 but he can certainly ride a winner or two before that.
Art Francais, who loves the dirt, will take a bit of beating in the 1,150-metre Dollar Handicap. Sanchez wound him up late on in the gallop yesterday and Art Francais came home pleasingly.
Tres Vite, who is in the Class Three Bannockburn Handicap, rattled through a brisk hitout in 1:20.7 for Sanchez. The horse invariably works well and likes a rain-affected track but will not be out of his depth on the dirt.
Furioso was considered unlucky at his last run at Sha Tin but supporters who lost out may recoup on Wednesday.
Furioso, who is down to run in the Class Four Dunvegan Castle Handicap over 1,650 metres has taken no harm from that run.
There were two all-weather trials where Mundahish just edged Jewel Of Kentucky in the opener. The latter is a reserve for an event in midweek and is in good heart while the winner seems to be coming to himself.
Born To Win took the second trial and is also looking in good shape, fairly comfortably defeating the useful Lion's Share.
YESTERDAY'S SHA TIN DIRT TRIALS First trial _ 1,150m: 1, MUNDAHISH (C. T. Cheng); 2, Jewel Of Kentucky (F. Coetzee); 3, Auction Venture (Y. T. Cheng). Others (in finishing order): Shaxi Fortune, V128, V126, V096. Time: 1:09.3 (24.7). Distances: neck, .5 length. Winner trained by Peter Ng Bik-kuen.
Second trial _ 1,150m: 1, BORN TO WIN (C. T. Cheng); 2, Lion's Share (F. Coetzee); 3, Aipoder (Y. T. Cheng). Others: Cazzapour's Pride, Time To Surf, V127, Rain Wood Lane. Time: 1:11.0 (25.2). Distances: 1.25 lengths, 1.75 lengths. Winner trained by Peter Ng Bik-kuen.
TRACK TRACKWORK Robin Parke