John Size-trained Contentment was a short-odds favourite when he took the Oriental Watch Sha Tin Trophy, 1,600m, last year but his fans should get a better price Sunday when he has a great chance to be the first horse ever to win it back-to-back.
Contentment (Brett Prebble) is a fairly understated star of the Hong Kong scene, who doesn’t win by big spaces or wow the crowd with a stunning finish but his record speaks for itself in terms of quality and consistency.
The six-year-old has won nine of his 20 starts, placed in another five and, in addition to his Group One Queen’s Silver Jubilee Stakes win, has a Group Two, in this race last year, and a Group Three victory to his credit as well as almost HK$22 million in the bank.
These elite handicap races are, as a collective, usually favouring lightweights but the Sha Tin Trophy is something of an anomaly, with Military Attack, Ambitious Dragon and California Memory taking three of the last four runnings under big handicaps and throw in Viva Pataca who won in 2008 with the top weight.
That is encouraging for Contentment’s prospects with 133 pounds and so was his first run back this season, when he got a little keen as the leaders slowed up in his face in the Celebration Cup. Prebble was forced to take evasive action and swing wide on the home turn, making his challenge earlier than he would have preferred, but Contentment sustained his effort strongly down the length of the straight.
He was beaten less than two lengths behind another strong prospect, Joyful Trinity (Joao Moreira), meets him better under the handicaps on Sunday and should be fitter now he has had that race.
And that’s an edge Contentment holds over some of the other proven class runners like Blazing Speed and Designs On Rome, as well as resuming lightweights like his talented stablemate Sun Jewellery and the early Derby favourite, Rapper Dragon.
Also in his favour is his tactical ability, as he will camp close to Beauty Flame (Vincent Ho Chak-yiu), who looks to have control of the speed here and the opportunity to make things difficult for the back markers.
One of those that a soft leader will disadvantage is Beauty Flame’s stablemate, Beauty Only (Douglas Whyte), who will take up his usual spot out the back from a wider draw. He looks to be going particularly well and will find the line strongly but whether he can give Contentment a start at the 200m and beat him in today’s circumstances is a question mark.
Packing Pins (Nash Rawiller) was a touch disappointing in the Celebration Cup but he has had two recent runs, has the tactical speed to be handy and probably his best chance to beat these horses is under the handicap conditions.