Sterling City is shaping well for a key Longines Hong Kong Sprint lead-up on Sunday as he seeks a second Group Two Premier Bowl, but trainer John Moore has international ambitions with him again, even beyond the December showpiece.
Moore has pencilled in the A$2.5 million (HK$17 million) TJ Smith Stakes at Royal Randwick in April for last season's Dubai Golden Shaheen hero.
"His owner, Gary Ling, said that, with the change of surface in Dubai, he'd prefer Sterling City go to the TJ Smith," Moore said. "So I've asked the Jockey Club for as much information as we can get on the quarantine facilities in Sydney."
For last year's hurriedly convened international "Championships", Canterbury racecourse was used as the quarantine centre. Canterbury is 10km from the city centre and a similar distance from Randwick, where the TJ Smith is run, but had both the advantage and disadvantage that horses are not normally trained there. That meant it had to be quickly fitted out for quarantine purposes, but also required the facilities to house only one visitor, Gordon Lord Byron, and a workmate.
The other visitor, Japanese mare Hana's Goal, was quarantined near Melbourne then was transported by road to stabling at Randwick, 700km away.
"I hope they use Canterbury again, but I've heard all kinds of different stories about what the situation will be this time," Moore said.
"Anyway, we'll find out and I'll go and have a look, or my brother Gary will, and we'll make sure it's OK. If Sterling City does go, he could stay in Australia after the race and have a proper spell."
Moore expects Sterling City will prove the horse to beat on Sunday under 132 pounds, up five pounds from his winning weight last season.
"He's very easy to train - so clean winded that he gets fit quickly and then the trainer's job is just to keep him there," Moore said.
"He should have run a good second down the straight first-up when he copped interference, Douglas Whyte was very complimentary about his run and I've no doubt Sterling City should be favourite."
Despite being a handicap, the Premier Bowl has been a great pointer to the Hong Kong Sprint. Even horses who prevailed in the Bowl under light weights - like Royal Delight, Cerise Cherry and Rich Unicorn - were competitive on international day under less forgiving set weights conditions, while Absolute Champion scored a hollow victory in the international for David Hall.
A win on Sunday for Hall-trained Bundle Of Joy won't be as big a surprise as Absolute Champion in his year at 33-1, but it likewise will bring him into international calculations.
“His form last season was improving although it didn’t really suggest he was going to get to this level," said Hall. "His win in the National Day Cup was his best ever and he was pretty comfortable. It gets harder each time he steps up, but it’s still a handicap."
Although five of Bundle Of Joy’s six wins have been at 1,000m, jockey Brett Prebble doesn't believe 1,200m poses a problem.
“At his second race start, he got 1,200m easily after going hard from a wide gate. He was still green then and is a much stronger and better horse now,” Prebble said. “I love riding this type of horse at this time of the season - this is the time if you want to put your hand up for the internationals.”