John Size-trained Contentment ran below his best in the Hong Kong Mile but his performance since under handicap conditions on New Year's Day still makes him hard to beat in the Group One HK$10 million Stewards' Cup (1,600m) at Sha Tin today.
Size has an imposing record in the Stewards' Cup, leading in more winners of the race than any trainer in the professional era with five victories in 14 seasons, most recently Glorious Days in 2013.
And, in Contentment (Joao Moreira), he has a horse that ticks all the boxes - a good record, a good draw, who makes his own luck sitting on the speed and with the necessary talent and courage to break through today for his first Group One.
The five-year-old looked to run below his very best international day and finished fifth to Maurice in the Hong Kong Mile, but has since bounced back and produced a career-best in the Chinese Club Challenge Cup on January 1. Caught wide throughout under 132 pounds, he clung on for a tenacious third, conceding winner Multivictory 18 pounds, and a repeat of that will win him today's race.
It looks modestly run, with Contentment, Beauty Flame (Gerald Mosse) and Multivictory likely frontrunners and perhaps it will be Multivictory who takes the front, as Beauty Flame seems to have found a fresh role tagging the leader in his last two outings, which Contentment does frequently.
If that is the case, Craig Williams will attempt to steady on Multivictory, whose only chance is to run it very slowly, then hope to catch his pursuers napping by getting away before the home turn. Williams won a lesser 1,400m race on this horse last season like that, so he may try to replicate the ride but will struggle to replicate the result, especially with his major opposition also his nearest pursuers.
That tempo will sort out most but Giant Treasure (Christophe Soumillon) should be well positioned just off the leaders to chase home Contentment for second.
Designs On Rome (Karis Teetan) won't be advantaged by the likely race shape, but it is worth recalling his run behind Beauty Flame and Contentment in the Jockey Club Mile which was run similarly - flashing home to be beaten only three lengths giving them both plenty of weight - and he remains a potential surprise packet.
As for Contentment's stablemate Luger, he faces a tremendous job after so long away from racing, needing his race-fit best to win.
A victory would surely be Size's crowning achievement as a trainer, topping Glorious Days' Hong Kong Mile win first-up or Luger's Derby off a minimal preparation.
Luger is a truly top class horse, but it's likely that this one will knock the rough edges off him for whatever comes next.