Caspar Fownes-trained Lucky Nine may not have won for more than 18 months and he probably won't show much at trackwork this week, but jockey Brett Prebble believes the eight-year-old could be saving his best for the Longines Hong Kong Sprint four years after he won the race for the first time.
Lucky Nine has mixed his form in nine runs since winning a second Krisflyer Sprint in Singapore in May 2014, but Prebble is taking hope from a game fourth when charging off the pace in the local Group Two lead-up to international day.
"He ran super - he just didn't get that cart into the race when he needed it. If we get a draw and an uninterrupted run, he should be right in the finish on Sunday," said Prebble, who has been aboard Lucky Nine in 37 of his 47 local starts and for each of the tough gelding's seven Group One wins.
Lucky Nine's 2011 Hong Kong Sprint win came after one of the more memorable finishes in international day history, prevailing after a three-way tussle with Entrapment and Joy And Fun.
"That's his ideal race pattern, how he won that day," Prebble said. "Midfield, three-deep with cover, getting a little trail into the race and then he will just fight."
The wonderful career achievements of Lucky Nine have come about despite a host of niggling issues, including joint problems and internal bleeding, not to mention his many behavioural quirks and idiosyncrasies.
Prebble said Lucky Nine had nothing to prove on Sunday, let alone at trackwork this week, and would enter the HK$18.5 million race requiring a minimum amount of work anyway.
"He has done his work and has had three runs this prep, Caspar has him right," Prebble said. "He is older so he probably doesn't handle doing 22-second final quarters in trackwork anymore. He doesn't need to do that type of high-speed trackwork."
Lucky Nine's sixth Hong Kong Sprint is likely to be his last and Prebble can provide an interesting perspective on where the Irish-bred import sits in the annals of Hong Kong's greatest ever short course specialists, having ridden the last great sprinter, Sacred Kingdom to a Hong Kong Sprint win in 2009.
"When they look back on Lucky Nine, people will say, 'Wasn't he a great horse?' And I think they will remember that he was a tough, honest competitor that turned up for you most days," said Prebble, who also won on Absolute Champion in 2006. "Lucky Nine is quirky and he has his issues, but he fights like a caged lion in a finish and that's the one you want to be on. He still might have that one big effort left in him."