One of the best-handicapped horses in Hong Kong can seal the Jockey Challenge for Joao Moreira when Eastern Express resumes in the Bulgari Excellent Handicap.
Moreira has a ride in every race but the John Size-trained four-year-old looms as possibly his shortest-priced chance of the day as he returns over 1,800m.
Eastern Express started last season on a mark of 60 but four wins saw the still-immature gelding fight his way into the Group One Hong Kong Classic Cup, where he dead-heated with Blizzard for third behind Sun Jewellery and Werther.
The handicapper was only able to add five to the rating of Eastern Express for that effort and Size gave the youngster just two more runs, an unplaced effort after a tough run in the Group One Hong Kong Derby, and a second to Joyful Trinity in late June.
Joyful Trinity has since franked that form having won at Group Three level and is likely to start favourite, with Moreira aboard, in Sunday’s Group Two Oriental Watch Sha Tin Trophy.
Moreira hasn’t ridden Eastern Express since New Year’s Day, and he will have noted a physical change in Size’s horse in the two lead-up trials.
Eastern Express weighed 1,128 pounds when running third for Moreira on that day, and returns this time in tipping the scales at 1,177 pounds.
Tackling 1,800m first-up seems a tough task but races at this distance are rarely run at a demanding tempo and Eastern Express just has too many rating points in hand for his rivals.
Of course, Moreira may not even need Eastern Express to win the last to secure the Jockey Challenge, as he has a book of rides that late Saturday contained seven of the ten race favourites, and the other three horses were second pick in early markets.
Consistent, Arm Runda, Dragon Warrior, Mr Picasso and Perpetual Treasure give Moreira a solid base to work from in the first half of the card, and some classy types to close the day can finish the Jockey Challenge off.
Love Shock and Thewizardofoz, both for Size, look a high chance of finding the frame, while Unicorn also seems ready to win after a great first-up run for new trainer Danny Shum Chap-shing.