Ambitious Dragon's little brother Packing Dragon gets a chance to break through for his first win on Sunday at Sha Tin and looks the best banker in the middle leg of an all-dirt Triple Trio that looks ominous.
Packing Dragon is the third sibling of two-time horse of the year Ambitious Dragon to race in Hong Kong, after Ocean Power and Triumphant Dragon.
Not surprisingly, neither Ocean Power, now retired, nor Triumphant Dragon, lived up to the illustrious accomplishments of Ambitious Dragon, a winner of more than HK$58 million. Still, both horses won multiple races in the lower grades, with Triumphant Dragon having won five of his last 11 and finishing in the top four on every occasion.
Packing Dragon looks a similar type to these two, a slow- developing prospect that might yet pay his way. Even Ambitious Dragon needed time to show his best, failing to win a race in four starts as a three-year-old after arriving as an unraced horse.
By Mastercraftsman, Packing Dragon cost NZ$190,000 (HK$980,000) as a yearling and has been brought along patiently by owner Money Wong Man-yi and trainer Ricky Yiu Poon-fai.
After a solitary run over a far-too-short 1,000m last season, Packing Dragon returned with an unplaced effort over 1,400m, and since then has been consistent, albeit without ever looking truly threatening.
Two runs over 1,600m were followed by a step up to 1,800m at his last two, including a last-start second to Cartoon Fay Fay when trying the dirt for the first time.
Whether the all-weather track will bring out Packing Dragon's best remains to be seen, but so far it does seem the only place the progeny of Mastercraftsman look likely to strike: the sole winner from nine individual starters for the Irish 2,000 Guineas winner has been three-time dirt winner Pablosky.
Dropping back to 1,650m at the gelding's seventh start will allow Karis Teetan to take a handy position from gate five, with confidence his mount will run out the distance strongly.
The pace scenario is tricky - there is a chance persistent rain could create a rail and leader bias, so watch earlier races for signs. Dragon Bachelor (Brett Prebble) will be up near the front, but a lot depends on whether apprentice Jack Wong Ho-nam wants to press on with Classic Jewellery from a wide draw.
Look out for Entrusting (Gregory Benoist) getting into this late after he caught the eye flying home for third behind Packing Dragon last start.
The other threat is Diamond Friends (Douglas Whyte), who will be lurking close from a low draw and certainly has the ability to win here, coming back to a more suitable 1,650m.
Keep options open as the first leg, a Class Four over 1,200m, looks incredibly difficult on paper with at least seven of the runners looking genuine winning chances.
Helen's Choice didn't see daylight last start, but was getting home strongly and Kei Chiong Ka-kei gets a chance to make amends from a better draw.
Take Helen's Choice as banker, from Lovely Naughty (Derek Leung Ka-chun), Travel Number One (Prebble), Horse Supremo (Wong) and Grand Plus (Joao Moreira).
The final leg is the feature race, another wide-open 1,200m race in Class Three, where Happy Chappy (Teetan) can go back-to-back as banker ahead of Archippus (Leung), Hit The Bid (Moreira), Ultimate Glory (Gerald Mosse) and Turin Pearl (Whyte).