Eagle Regiment aims for repeat success in Kent and Curwen Cup
Whether because of his sheer size or his sore legs, Eagle Regiment may always struggle to do anything other than gallop in a straight line - luckily it is something he does very well.
And on Sunday at Sha Tin, he returns from injury after nearly 12 months on the sidelines, over his favoured straight course and in a race he won last year, the Group One Kent & Curwen Centenary Sprint Cup.
Manfred Man Ka-leung's five-year-old has not competed since March last year, when lameness forced a race day withdrawal from the Al Quoz Sprint, but jockey Olivier Doleuze is hopeful three barrier trials have the horse up to the mark.
"I don't know if he can be 100 per cent for this race, but his preparation has been good," Doleuze said.
"I'm very happy with him. He is a beautiful horse and his action has been good. I asked him for slightly more effort in the last trial and I was happy with the response I got. In the last 200 metres of the trial I gave him a little squeeze, just to help clear his wind - they need that when they haven't raced for a long time.
"I didn't kill him, I just let him stretch and extend a little bit - and when I asked him for effort, the reaction was good." Eagle Regiment has an exceptional record of six wins and three seconds from nine starts over 1,000 metres at Sha Tin, the only two unplaced efforts of his career coming over 1,200 metres.
But he will be battling rustiness and faces a crack field over the short course. Proven veterans Lucky Nine, Joy And Fun, Admiration and Captain Sweet will join up-and-comer Go Baby Go at level weights, while he will be giving weight to three-year-old Amber Sky under the weight for age conditions of the race.
"The race is quite strong with a lot of good horses who are in form … and a lot of them have had one, or even two runs," Doleuze said.
The next option up a straight course may be a return trip to Dubai for the Al Quoz, with Doleuze not hopeful of the gelding successfully tackling a turn.
"He is a completely different horse when you race him in a straight line," he said.
"Some horses are just like that - he is a big machine and he needs a bit of room."
Meanwhile, Neil Callan has been cleared to ride at tonight's Happy Valley meeting after a fall at yesterday morning's barrier trials at Sha Tin.
Callan fell from Ricky Yiu Poon-fai's Better Announce when Keith Yeung Ming-lun's mount Access Years shifted ground abruptly and caused interference. Stewards were satisfied that Yeung could not have prevented the incident.