Hong Kong's best will be arrayed in force on Sunday at Sha Tin as they begin their campaigns towards the internationals in December, and John Moore says his big-race bridesmaid Irian can cause a surprise in the Oriental Watch Sha Tin Trophy.
The imposing figure of the Tony Millard-trained Ambitious Dragon, two-times Horse Of the Year, stands atop a Sha Tin Trophy field that also includes the winners of last season's Champions Mile, Hong Kong Cup, Derby and Champions & Chater Cup.
Ambitious Dragon is the likely favourite, and as such, will be out to turn over more than two decades of history. No outright favourite has won the race since 1990, with upset victors all the way up to Packing Winner's 160-1 shock three years ago.
Moore has sorted out jockeys for his six runners in this weekend's race and nominated Brett Prebble's mount Irian as the one who could cause the upset this year.
"They are all well but I'd say Irian is going to run a whopper," Moore said yesterday. "Xtension might just need this run, having in mind we want him to peak on international day, and the same is true of Zaidan. Military Attack has a light weight and he could be a knockout for that reason, but he isn't trained up yet."
Moore is basing his expectations of Irian on having found a cure for the gelding "speedy cutting", a term that refers to a horse's hooves making contact with his other feet or legs during his running action.
"We've got Irian's shoeing right again so that he doesn't speedy cut himself and he has been very impressive in his work," Moore said. "I know 2,000 metres probably is his best distance, but Irian has been effective from a mile up so I think he'll run a great race."
The Group Three Premier Bowl for the sprinters has not exactly been a picnic for punters: Cheerful Fortune was the last outright favourite to win that, nine years ago, and John Size stunned horseplayers last year with Rich Unicorn's 64-1 win.
Moore will have four runners there, too, after switching Majestic Falcon from the Class Two event, where he would have been a reserve runner. He will join stablemate Captain Sweet, Leading City and Able Speed.