John Size has won the HK$8 million Stewards' Cup five times in 12 years but the trainer saddles up Glorious Days this Sunday in an unaccustomed role in the Group One feature.
The Longines Hong Kong Mile winner at his only run this season, Glorious Days looks the logical favourite for the top domestic 1,600m race and Size expects to see the same horse that defeated Gold-Fun in December.
"He's in a good shape, I'm happy with him and hopefully he can deliver what he did on international day," said Sizeon Monday, but there is an unspoken line in that simplest of quotes.
The Australian has scored Stewards' Cup wins with Electronic Unicorn (2002 and 2003), Super Kid (2004), Armada (2007) and last year with Glorious Days, and all but Super Kid shared a pattern - they had been the runner-up in the Hong Kong Mile.
In fact, since the Stewards' Cup moved from November to its January date in the 1999-2000 season, that has been the standout recipe for winning it - defeat on international day. Six Stewards' Cup winners were second in the Hong Kong Mile, two more were third and three others filled second or fourth placing in the Hong Kong Cup.
Only Good Ba Ba (2008 and 2009) and Beauty Flash (2011) won both the international and domestic miles and that is the proposition ahead of Glorious Days.
"Probably nobody is more aware of that than I am when you look at the horses I've won this race with," Size said. "History suggests the horse that peaked on international day wasn't able to do the same again on Stewards' Cup day, while the horse who didn't do quite enough on the international day was able to either hold that form or do a little bit better in his next race.
"And Glorious Days is coming off a career best, too, but he is probably in a better position than most to hold his form in the Stewards' Cup because he's still fresh. He's only had one run this season, not a full campaign of lead-ups into the Hong Kong Mile, like most of those past winners would have had."
In the other Group One feature, Size is still searching for his first Classic Mile victory and is under no illusions about the task facing Glorious Sunday in the race.
"You only have to look at the handicap ratings and see that Glorious Sunday is 28 points behind Flagship Shine and it's pretty obvious he has a mountain to climb," Size said.
"He's the right age for a Derby campaign but nowhere near these other horses in terms of his record and has lot to find. So this race will be a test for him. If he can perform well enough, then he can head on towards the Derby."