Barrier positions told a familiar tale as trainer David Ferraris led in a double, but he was keener to shine a light on another equally familiar tale - the difficulties of getting stayers ready for the Longines International meeting in December.
The last local winner of the Hong Kong Vase was Indigenous in 1998 and part of the reason for that is the absence of preparation races for stayers, something Ferraris highlighted after Liberator finished second-last in the Ladies' Purse.
"These European horses come here so fit, they've been running all year and they've been running over two miles, but our horses don't have a programme to get them fit enough," Ferraris said. "I had to run Liberator today in the 1,800m because there are basically just two races to run him in to get ready for the 2,400m. When he was caught wide, he couldn't just go back and get in - we've seen that the horse can't sprint home like that and he wouldn't even have had a proper race sitting out the back. So when he was wide, the jockey had to push on and try to get him into the race and then he has a tough run like that with a big weight."
Ferraris said the programmers had to bite the bullet and accept that there was a point to putting on a better lead-up for horses going towards the Vase, even if it would not be a turnover winner.
"They tell us that there's no point programming a 2,000m Class One that might only get six entries but there's an eight-horse field for a minor dirt race next Wednesday," Ferraris said. "I love training stayers but it makes it very difficult when there are no races for them. Liberator's going to be in the Vase with only two races under his belt. They might be surprised to find others also take up the chance to run if only there was an extra race put on for these high-grade distance horses."
Ferraris' day was happier either side of Liberator, taking the eighth with Strathtay (Richard Fourie) and the last with Fleet Command (Weichong Marwing) and both benefitted from low draws.
Both horses have given away big starts from the tail of the field at times from high gates, but were able to be ridden closer this time, and it made the winning difference.
"That's Hong Kong. From the wide gate last time, Fleet Command was given an impossible task, butchered but, from a better draw, Weichong could have him handy but covered up," Ferraris said.
"Strathtay got back drawing wide last season but he has been handier from the better draws both runs this time - he just ran a bit flat at the end first up but was fitter today and finished it off. I had a good feeling about both of these horses today, especially Fleet Command. I'm only sorry that his owner, John Swaine, wasn't here to see him win."
John Swaine, a former Jockey Club chairman, passed away in August.