It is a tough ask for an inexperienced import to win at their local debut but the David Hall-trained Little Giant should have the necessary class for a successful first-up strike on Sunday at Sha Tin.
A winner of two-from-two in New Zealand earlier this year, Little Giant has been in work since April but Hall has waited to reveal the now four-year-old over 1,200m in the Chevalier E & M Engineering Handicap.
Little Giant was given a rating of 74, putting him in the upper half of Class Three, after a couple of impressive performances for former handler Lisa Latta in January.
Latta had also taken time to educate the clearly talented son of Swiss Ace with a series of jump-outs and then two barrier trials before even going to the races.
On debut, Little Giant ground out a maiden win on a softish track at Tauherenikau before an imperious victory in a competitive three-year-old sprint over 1,400m on Wellington Cup day at Trentham.
Jonathan Riddell sat Little Giant up outside the leader and he toyed with rivals, although admittedly getting into a great rhythm after settling, before sprinting impressively when asked for an effort with 200m to go and scoring by nearly three lengths.
That’s when the offers flooded in for the promising type, a gelding Riddell called a “lovely animal” after the dominant victory.
Of course, easy wins in New Zealand can be flattering, but it appears as though the form out of Little Giant’s second start is stacking up well, runner-up Clifford won next time out while third-placed Chocante has won three since, including a Group Three last week.
In that time Hall has gently brought Little Giant along and two trials under Zac Purton appear to have him sharp enough for 1,200m on debut – even if he might appreciate a little further later.
Importantly the second, and far more impressive trial, was around a bend over 1,200m on the dirt after Little Giant had contested his two starts on left-handed tracks in New Zealand.
Hall has found the right race for Little Giant too, this isn’t anywhere near as tough as some other Class Threes, with a group of well-exposed horses with seemingly little upside and another two first-starters part of a 12-horse field on the “C” course. To make his task easier, he has drawn barrier four and should get a lovely spot just behind the speed.
One of those first-starters, Danny Shum Chap-shing’s Top Score (Nash Rawiller) seems ready from a fitness-perspective and drew a perfect gate, so can’t be completely dismissed.
Benno Yung Tin-pang’s Honest Horse (Chad Schofield) could be one to watch, dropping back to a more suitable trip and with blinkers replacing visors after failing at 1,400m late last term, although the stable is hard to catch early in a prep.
Bearing this in mind, Yung’s talented four-year-old Friends Of Nanjing (Rawiller) should improve on his first-up sixth, when he contests a 1,400m Class Three.
Friends Of Nanjing does face some talented types though – Hall’s Brilliant Dream (Brett Prebble) is back in from and draws a much better gate than when a fast-finishing third last start and although badly drawn for a go-forward horse, and the John Size-trained Beat The Clock steps up in grade and looks attractively weighted.
Beat The Clock is one of six rides Joao Moreira has taken for the Size stable, along with Southern Express, Premiere, Unicron Jewellery, Arizona Blizzard and My Darling – with all of them likely to start either first or second favourites in betting.
Southern Express has drawn awkwardly as well but drops into a three-year-old restricted race after a luckless ninth as 2.4 favourite last start. Keep a watch on Generous Heart (Kei Chiong Ka-kei) after he caught the eye on debut – the step up to 1,400m looks ideal.