Darren Beadman is banking on the upside of underexposed colt Dan Excel, choosing to ride the lowest-rated of the five runners John Moore has engaged in Sunday's Group One Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong Classic Cup (1,800m) at Sha Tin.
Dan Excel is rated 91, below established stablemates Captain Sweet (116), Smart Giant (105), Zaidan (105) and Dominant (94), but Beadman believes the horse can continue to progress after a better-than-expected debut, when he rattled home for third in a 1,600m race, despite being described by his trainer as 'fat and underdone'.
Sunday's race is a stepping stone to the Group One Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong Derby four weeks later, and Beadman is taking the long-term view by riding Dan Excel and hoping to boost his rating to ensure the horse gains a spot in the classic field.
'We felt that he was the one who was the up-and-coming type,' Beadman (pictured) said. 'His first-up run was very good and there was a lot of improvement left in him. Plus, he needs to qualify for the Derby. He is borderline with the rating he has, but the higher up he can be, the better.'
Moore is renowned for buying some of Europe's highest-rated horses to compete in the rich four-year-old races and has twice achieved Derby success in recent years with expensive imports - Viva Pataca (2006) and Collection (2009) - to add to his 1995 win with Makarpura Star.
Dan Excel came with a comparably moderate European record of three wins from 10 starts, but got Beadman's nod ahead of Smart Giant, who the jockey said may have reached the end of his tether after a flat last-start effort.
'His run was OK ... but he has been up a long time and his run might have come to an end,' Beadman said.
He described this year's crop of four-year-olds as an 'even bunch', with the pace of the lead-up Hong Kong Classic Mile not helping sort out matters. Sweet Orange won the Classic Mile despite being trapped wide and lines up again on Sunday.
'We'll get a better guide from this race,' Beadman said. 'There's still a lot of question marks whether a lot of these horses can run the trip. Sweet Orange might keep the momentum going, but it was a muddling-type race and there were some hard luck stories behind him.'
Meantime, Jockey Club officials gave permission to champion Australian jockey Damien Olivier to ride Irian for Moore in next weekend's Group One Citibank Hong Kong Gold Cup.