Trainer Richard Gibson has given positive report cards for favourites Gold-Fun and Akeed Mofeed ahead of Sunday's Group One Classic Cup but is wary of high public expectation.
Classic Mile winner Gold-Fun is the winner of three from four since arriving and Akeed Mofeed caught all eyes when unluckily beaten on his Class Two debut. Both horses are strongly fancied to win the second of the four-year-old features, a HK$6 million race distinguished in past years by upset results.
The last four winners have been at double-figure odds and Gibson was at pains to point out that the Classic Cup was a deeper race than many might be presuming.
"I'm in a great position going into the race with two horses whose health and well-being I'm very pleased with. I'd always rather that than going in with a few issues hanging around," Gibson said yesterday.
"But there are a couple of aspects of the race that stop me from being over-confident. For one thing, I'm not taking the opposition lightly - there are some very nice horses there.
"Although Gold-Fun and Akeed Mofeed are favourites in Hong Kong, some of these other horses had superior form to them in Europe. Gold-Fun has only won a maiden and Akeed Mofeed was only a winner of a Listed race."
Gibson said he has had to do little with race-fit Gold-Fun other than keep him ticking over since the Classic Mile but that Akeed Mofeed was at the other end of the scale and would benefit from the race, heading towards the HK$16 million BMW Hong Kong Derby next month.
"I gave him the trial the other day and it was okay, but I expect him to improve for it and I think he will improve again from this race," he said. "Akeed Mofeed has had very little racing overall and just three races in the past year. He's a big, strong, imposing stallion. I'm giving him as much work as I dare, but it isn't easy to get him fit without racing."
Gibson's duo drew wide barriers yesterday, at declaration time, with Akeed Mofeed in 10 and Gold-Fun in 13, but he was not too concerned.
"I've no complaints. In Europe you'd never use the draw as an excuse for getting beaten in a decent race. Sure, a wide draw reduces your tactical options but good horses have to be able to adapt accordingly," Gibson said.
"What I wouldn't mind seeing is a little rain or the track being watered before Sunday. It was a pretty lively surface on Tuesday and having a bit more give in it would be ideal from the point of view of the horses' welfare."
Top British jockey Ryan Moore pulled out of his booking for Sean Woods-trained Autumn Gold yesterday after suffering a wrist injury. He has been replaced by Tom Queally.