John Moore has elected to skip the Group One Classic Mile with Victory Magic but the four-year-old can instead take a big step towards his ultimate target with a win in the Class Two middle leg of Sunday’s Triple Trio at Sha Tin.
Victory Magic, Group Two placed in Australia, has an advantage over many of his age group in that he arrived relatively early and is already well acclimatised as the BMW Hong Kong Derby edges ever closer.
Many of the high-profile purchases for that race, now just under two months away, are being pushed to gain fitness on limited preparations, but Victory Magic had already been to the races three times last season when he resumed this term.
With the usual growing pains out of his system, the son of Savabeel has been solid in three outings thus far in 2015-16, catching the eye with placings each time – and even with a drop back in distance from 2,000m to 1,800m, he looks well placed to be right in contention again.
Now on a mark of 86, Victory Magic had the requisite rating to warrant a place in the Classic Mile alongside four of his stablemates, but 1,600m is already looking far too short for a horse that has been relaxing well and doing his best work late in contests.
Douglas Whyte takes over from Chad Schofield in a race where Victory Magic finds himself against similar opposition to last start and again hoping for a little bit of speed to help his cause.
A fast or even tempo doesn’t look likely, but most runners are at least in the same situation, and this is a race where tactics will be key – expect mid-race moves if the leaders dawdle in the long run to the first turn.
Those daring tactics are exactly what Brett Prebble attempted on Savvy Nature over 2,000m last start when the leaders pulled up in front and the horse’s run to stick on for third, just behind Victory Magic, was full of merit.
Savvy Nature again goes in, along with Anticipation, who could easily be left leader by default, with Joao Moreira having little choice but to go forward from barrier 11.
Ensuring (Ryan Moore) gets a sharp drop in class and goes in, from Supreme Profit (Derek Leung Ka-chun) and either Renaissance Art (Zac Purton) or Santa Fe Sun (Nash Rawiler), if looking for a blow-out chance.
In the opening leg of the TT, a 1,400m Class Four, Moreira will be out to maintain a perfect record on Richard Gibson’s Sugar City.
The seven-year-old hasn’t won for nearly a year but a better draw than last start means Sugar City should have a nice spot in the run and he strikes a race with the right kind of speed on to show his best.
Unique Joyful (Whyte) comes off a strong run in the same race as Sugar City and goes in from Bear Rapper (Moore), Thunder Dash (Silvestre de Sousa) and Motif (Gerald Mosse).
Winston’s Lad (Prebble) needed to dig deep last start but looks to have enough upside to carry 133 pounds in a 1,200m Class Three and make it three straight wins in the final leg.
In a weak-looking race that includes four horses that are first-up, the Francis Lui Kin-wai-trained four-year-old can act as banker ahead of Chevalier Star (Jack Wong Ho-nam), Line Seeker (Purton) and Both Lucky (De Sousa).