Caspar Fownes' seasoned-import Helene Spirit looks primed to strike following a nice runner-up result in the co-featured Peninsula Golden Jubilee Challenge Cup over the all-weather track mile at Sha Tin on Sunday.
Helene Spirit produced a most encouraging debut effort on July 1 in the Class One Hong Kong Reunification Cup over 1,200m when getting checked sharply at the jump before making a steady drive under Jacky Tong Chi-kit for sixth behind smart sprinters Able Speed, Rich Unicorn and Leading City at over 99-1 odds.
Fownes decided to geld him during the break and he returned in mid-October in a Class Two over 1,400m with the tongue-tie inserted that proved difficult to settle throughout under stable apprentice Vincent Ho Chak-yiu.
With a 49-day break in between runs and some progressive trackwork and a good dirt trial on November 18 behind Horse Galore, Helene Spirit started at 27-1 odds for Mark du Plessis from gate four.
The four-year-old went forward under his own steam, was back to sixth with Military Move and Mighty Sun making their move at the 800m, placed under pressure at the 450m, straightened three deep and was running on nicely to overhaul Just Fantastic for second 20m out, 1 3/4 lengths off the winner Military Move. This effort came, despite the fact he had sustained a cut to his left hind coronet during the run.
Helene Spirit arrived off a mark of 91 last season during a French career that spanned 11 starts for two 1,600m wins, including a comfortable Chantilly decision over eventual Group One winner Planteur as a two-year-old and the straight course at Maisons-Laffitte. He also had four placings, including a runner-up performance behind crack-performer Behkabad, an eventual Group One winner, in the Group Three Prix Des Chenes (1,600m) at Longchamp and was third to Elusive Wave in the Group Three Prix Quincey (1,6000m) at Deauville from 11 outings as Arasin for trainer Pascal Bary.
He's a son of the unbeaten 2005 English 2000 Guineas winner Footstepsinthesand mated to the Woodman mare Arazena, a 2,100m winner in France.
Footstepsinthesand has been represented in Hong Kong by eight starters, of which five have already saluted the judge, including 108- rated Pure Champion, and Mr Vigorous, Noble Deluxe and Hawthorne.
Arazena has produced four other winners from four starters, including City Of Troy, a son of Grand Lodge who has twice been successful at 1,400m and placed third in a Listed race at Goodwood and Obligation, a product of Galileo who is a winner at 1,800m and Listed placed at Leopardstown.
Below Arazena, his third dam, Mysterious was among the top-rated fillies of her generation with a Group One Epsom Oaks Stakes, English 1000 Guineas and Yorkshire Oaks success in 1973.
Sporting such a rich pedigree, Helene Spirit is just starting to get the hang of things and looks ready to showcase his true talent.