Charles The Great had already exceeded trainer John Moore's expectations up until Sunday and even though he went into the Group Two BOCHK Jockey Club Sprint as third seed from his own stable, the underrated sprinter stamped himself an international day contender with a smart win.
A top shelf ride from Douglas Whyte helped Charles The Great as the veteran threaded through inside runs late to hold off fast-finishing stablemate Sterling City by half a length.
"He got the gun run and delivered," Moore said. "There was a time where we thought he couldn't take the next step and that he was just a Happy Valley horse. But he is going to be competitive on the big day from a good gate."
Whyte was closer than he expected in the run, sitting just better than midfield.
"He jumped well and put himself there," Whyte said. "I prefer to ride him colder than that and he finds the line, but I was there for free and tracking them four or five lengths off the pace. When the split came I had Amber Sky to run down and he gave me everything."
The effort of Sterling City was solid, with Moore saying 1,400m will be more suitable.
But for the horse that displaced him as favourite late, Amber Sky, the day was a disaster.
Amber Sky failed to handle the turn for new jockey Neil Callan, then stopped quickly late and a scope later revealed a substantial amount of blood in his trachea.
There were also question marks about Eagle Regiment's ability to take a turn, but a patient ride from Olivier Doleuze, and the benefit of cover from gate one saw the six-year-old finish off gamely for third.
"He was a bit tricky on the bend, I rode him quietly and asked him in the last 200m to give me something and he did," Doleuze said. "It was a very good run, and if you gave me a choice of any other horse on international day I would never give up my horse. He carried five pounds more than anything else today and if everything goes right at level weights you never know."
Cerise Cherry was fourth in the race for the second straight year, and trainer Derek Cruz said the eight-year-old would come on for the run.
"He wasn't quite there in the coat today, and last year he was able to run second to Lord Kanaloa," he said.
Moore's Frederick Engels was eighth but finished the race off well after Zac Purton was forced to take him back from gate 12.
"He ran a nice race, it's just going to come down to who draws a marble on international day," Purton said.