John Moore treated the early risers to a champagne piece of trackwork yesterday when Group One winners Military Attack and Dan Excel went stride for stride in a turf gallop of real significance.
It may be unfair to call Dan Excel a lesser light, as he's already the clear-cut winner of the Group One Champions Mile last May and he wasn't about to play second fiddle to the reigning Horse of the Year in this match-up either.
Handled by regular race rider Weichong Marwing, Dan Excel had the better of Military Attack (Zac Purton), at least in terms of appearances, if not by actual margin. Dan worked on the outside of Steven Lo Kit-sing's colour bearer, with the pair running 1,200m in 1:16.7, the last 800m in 49.9 seconds and the ultimate 400m in 22.4.
Interpret this positively for Dan Excel, who ran well for fifth in the Group Two Jockey Club Mile last start when anchored under the five-pound penalty (as a Group One winner this year). However, there is no negative there for Military Attack, who has enjoyed a swashbuckling 2013 and is poised to peak in the Hong Kong Cup.
Moore's Vase candidate Dominant went well also, partnered by stablemate Ashkiyr, over 1,200m in 1:19.3, the last 400m in 23.3, with both gallopers travelling well within themselves.
American raider King Kreesa proved he has shaken off any lingering effects of travel sickness with a sharp piece of work. The bay went 800m solo on the course proper, clocking 50.15. He improved over the final 400m in 23.74, and the last 200m in 11.49.
Visiting Vase contender Simenon underlined his staying talent by striding out 2,400m on the turf - something the locals would never do. He picked up the tempo from the 1,400m, clocking 1:41.8. Despite his early exertions, Simenon still had sufficient energy to clock 23.52 for the last 400m and zipped home his last furlong (200m) in 11.38 seconds.
Cerise Cherry led the locals home behind Lord Kanaloa in last year's Sprint and the veteran indicated his readiness for a vengeance attempt. He sat off stablemate Really The Best but charged over 600m in 35.3 seconds, the ultimate 200m in 11.42 and flogged his hapless companion.
He might be eight years old but Cerise Cherry is the youngster of trainer Derek Cruz's Sprint pair. Senior citizen Joy And Fun also worked, quickening up in the final stages to beat Our Marcus at the end of 800m in 50.1, the second half in 22.0 seconds.
Last start weight-for-age winner Side Glance is one of the best of the visitors in the looks department, as well as on the scoreboard. He slid down 600m in 38.5 on the all-weather track, the last 400m in 12.0 and continues to impress with his fluent stride and bright appearance. This work came on top of Saturday's gallop of the morning - 1,200m in 1:13.6, the last 400m in 23.3.