Ricky Yiu Poon-fai-trained Fantastico looks back to his best and the timing couldn't be better as the gelding looks the one to beat in the Hong Kong Football Club Centenary Challenge Cup (1,000m) at Happy Valley tonight.
Time gets away and the last time Fantastico (Joao Moreira) won a race was in June, 2014 in Class Three down the Sha Tin straight. As a result, he has run in Class Four only six times since for two good seconds and last week's third to Ocean Roar.
Although he had gate four last week, things didn't bounce Fantastico's way in running, with the fastest horses in the race drawn under him in gates one and two and even the horse in gate three quick enough to hold a forward place beneath him. So, from gate four, Fantastico went around the course in a three-wide postion, never easy at the Valley, and still battled well into third and beat the remaining runners by more than three lengths.Tonight he draws barrier two on the C+3, where the rails trip is even more important, but should be quicker early than the horses drawn either side of him, King Of Household (Eurico da Silva) and Yo-Yo Da, which should see him find the fence and Moreira can assess from there.
Oddly enough, for a 1,000m race, this one lacks a lot of speed runners and unraced Moment Of Power (Zac Purton) could find the lead from barrier seven unless Moreira really wants to push up and hold him out.
Moment Of Power begins well at the trials and leading probably offers his best chance of a first-start win over what is normally a tricky course for debutants, who tend to find the pressure too much against tough, more experienced runners.
That prospect looks less likely, even with speedy Real Fit and Glory Horsie in the field, but whatever happens, Moment Of Power will have the battle-hardened Fantastico stalking him wherever he goes.