The Hong Kong Jockey Club Community Trophy (1,400m) on Sunday at Sha Tin offers another glimpse into the future of the classic crop and the John Size-trained Western Express holds the edge.
The four-year-olds look a decent group this year and have a strong representation here from Western Express (Joao Moreira), Limitless (Umberto Rispoli), California Whip and People’s Knight (Karis Teetan) but the first two command the most attention.
And it is the racing manners of Western Express which make him the favourite to beat Limitless.
Although Western Express failed inexplicably in his two runs against the best of his age in the Classic Mile and Classic Cup, his other form says he should be considered not as far behind that class as those defeats might suggest – he is already rated higher by the handicapper than some of those who beat him in those races.
Western Express’ last two wins have come without fancy margins, and there were arguments to say that he was a touch fortunate to win at least one of them, but he is doing the job under big handicap weights and that’s a great sign.
He gets a notional class rise from Class Two to Class One and without much of a weight drop, but he looks a progressive horse who importantly will get things run to suit.
Not the best of beginners normally, Western Express might be slightly awkwardly drawn in gate seven of 10 barriers except that there looks solid pace from Lucky Girl, Fight Hero and California Whip and likely leader Lucky Girl does like to roll along boldly in the front.
So Moreira should be able to let Western Express find his comfort zone early, knowing that the style of race should enable the run-on horses to produce their turn of foot and his mount certainly has some of that.
On the handicaps, Limitless looks a very serious rival getting 12 pounds from Western Express, but his problem has nothing to do with handicapping.
Even when he won over this trip, or and even when he was in a fast-run 1,800m race before the Derby, Limitless has been a nightmare ride, over-racing every time we’ve seen him race.
He will appreciate a generous speed too and will be out the back ready to make his finish with the favourite but he can’t be relied upon to bring his best because fighting the jockey depletes his energy before the serious work begins.
People’s Knight (Karis Teetan) may not reach the same heights as the other pair in time but he too is a very decent four-year-old, he gets a weight turnaround on Western Express for not being beaten too far last time and is race fit, unlike California Whip, who has not raced for seven weeks.