The jockeys of rising stars Packing Pins and Contentment haven't given up hope of toppling superstar Able Friend in the Jockey Club Cup at Sha Tin on Saturday but maintain they won't be riding any differently because he is there.
Nearly all eyes will be on Able Friend in the international day lead-up, but Australian riders Zac Purton (Packing Pins) and Nash Rawiller (Contentment) agree that focusing on the 1,300-pound monster looming in the rear-view mirror would be to their own detriment.
"You can't just go out there trying to beat one horse, or you'll bring yourself undone," Purton said after partnering Packing Pins in an impressive turf gallop yesterday. "I won't be thinking about Able Friend. I'll ride the race to suit my horse and if he is good enough he will win."
Rawiller agreed, hoping Contentment's gate speed and ability to sit handy in the run will give him an advantage against Able Friend, who will sit near the tail of the field and wait to unleash his trademark finishing burst.
"In any race you ride your own horse to suit it. I should be in front of Able Friend in the run and hopefully I don't see him coming until after the post," Rawiller said.
Packing Pins has won his last five starts over 1,400m but will be stepping up to a mile for the first time and Purton said a slightly slower tempo in the longer race would allow him to sit closer to the lead than usual.
"My horse has been beginning very well and putting himself in the race. I expect him to be very handy in the run - he should be able to box seat," Purton said.
"Able Friend's style is to switch off early and come home strong, the style of our horses is to make their own luck. They are very different horses to Able Friend and that's another reason there is no use worrying about him. Our horses can both run good sectionals. If he has to give us too much of a start it could be interesting."
Contentment comes into his biggest test having won four straight and he and Packing Pins both receive a five-pound weight allowance as non-Group One winners, an advantage that has proved crucial in these trial races, but won't be there in the Hong Kong Mile should they meet again.
This, and the chance that Able Friend suffers "second-up syndrome" after his barnstorming first-up victory is giving Rawiller added hope he can orchestrate an upset.
"Maybe he is slightly vulnerable, I don't know. When they run like that first-up it can be hard to reproduce, but he is a freak - we all know that," Rawiller said.
"I think my horse will run a great race, but in reality I'll be hoping for an ounce of luck and hoping some things don't go Able Friend's way."