German jockey Andrasch Starke has given up placing limitations on Longines Hong Kong Cup hopeful Neatico, whose late career development has left him gobsmacked this year.
Peter Schiergen's six-year-old has won four of his last five, finishing unplaced just once in 2013, after Starke had him pegged a "Group Three horse at best".
"I've been in racing more than 22 years and I've never seen a horse improve like he has at his age," Starke said. "I have ridden him all through his career. He was just a Listed or Group Three horse, but this year something changed. He won four group races and he has completely transformed. If you told me 12 months ago he would run in a Hong Kong Cup, I would have thought it was impossible."
It's not just the wins but the way Neatico has done the job that has Starke excited and believing he can be in the finish.
"He is not just winning these Group races, he is winning by five lengths, seven lengths - big margins," Starke said. "He has a chance to finish top four and if he runs his best race he will finish close."
Neatico completed some solid work on the all-weather track yesterday with Starke aboard, running 1,200m in 1:19.3 with final splits of 22.2 seconds (400m) and 11.3 (200m).
Starke also rides four-year-old German filly Nymphea, who was a Group One winner three starts back but disappointing on British Champions day at Ascot.
"She is inconsistent, but she doesn't like soft ground. She should like the going more here," he said.
One thing Starke won't be afraid to do is utilise the catch-me-if-you-can tactics adopted aboard Nymphea in the Group One Grosser Preis von Berlin in July, when jockey Dennis Schiergen broke the hearts of his rivals.
"She doesn't have to lead, but she has run some of her best races that way."