Sun Jewellery looked the most likely winner of the final Group race of the season, today's Group Three Premier Cup (1,400m) at Sha Tin even before the pace dropped out of the race but two scratchings have probably only made his job easier.
We haven't seen John Size-trained Sun Jewellery (Joao Moreira) since his seventh in the Hong Kong Derby but his reappearance has a parallel with stablemate Contentment, who won on this day last year. Contentment had not started since his unplaced effort in the Derby but resumed from his 91-day break with a Class Two win over 1,600m.
Today, Sun Jewellery also steps out 91 days after his Derby defeat, when he may not have stayed 2,000m, and looks the one to beat with two recent trials under his belt.
The four-year-old had some solid contests earlier in the year, downing Werther in both the Classic Mile and Classic Cup on level terms but, fresher now, comes back to what has possibly been his best distance.
Since those were against his own age, Sun Jewellery now has the luxury of returning to handicaps as a dual Group One winner getting considerable weight from the Stewards' Cup winner, Giant Treasure, and Packing Pins (Neil Callan).
When the fields were first published, Sun Jewellery jumped off the page as the clear favourite from gate two, with his tactical ability to park up behind the speed.
On paper, it seemed Beauty Flame, Domineer and Dashing Fellow (Chad Schofield) could squabble over the lead while Moreira cruised in their wake. The scratchings of Beauty Flame and Domineer may have handed Dashing Fellow the front and taken some strength from the speed but they haven't changed the positioning of Sun Jewellery in the run nor as the rightful favourite. If anything, those scratchings have made things tougher for horses behind Sun Jewellery to get into the race.
The race profile is an interesting one as five of the nine runnings have seen wins at double figures and four at 20-1 or longer, including the last two, Helene Spirit and Secret Sham, but it has also been the launching pad into future big race success for horses like Able One and Sterling City and that is where we are looking with Sun Jewellery or his main danger, Packing Pins.
While Packing Pins has yet to win a Group race, it seems a matter of time, and his third in the Champions Mile was very sound at the highest level.
And Dashing Fellow may be perceived as lacking their class but he is a four-year-old at the height of his powers, has won six races at the Sha Tin 1,400m and will dictate the pace under his light weight.