The Group Three Sa Sa Ladies’ Purse, 1,800m, at Sha Tin on Sunday looks the right springboard for Eastern Express to advance himself up the ladder and the John Size-trained four-year-old is the one to beat but the race is anything but straight forward.
At a simple glance through their past form, Eastern Express (Joao Moreira) looks obvious, with his form around the likes of Werther, Sun Jewellery and Blizzard, and he gets a weight pull over his rivals to boot.
Surely it’s too good to be true and to some extent, that is right.
If any of those horses named were lining up here with 115 pounds, they would be at short odds to get the job done, and even Eastern Express’ conqueror in Class Three in July, Joyful Trinity would be favourite.
But then all of that went into the logic of making Eastern Express favourite first-up this season in an easier race when he was roundly thrashed by Anticipation.
There were no excuses in that defeat and if Anticipation can put a good-sized hole in Eastern Express then so can plenty of others but what remains in the Size-trained galloper’s corner is his upside.
The champion trainer’s runners often improve for a race or two and that’s the faith that punters will put into Eastern Express when they make him favourite to win an event Size has won once before with Endowing in 2013.
There are multiple nooks and crannies to this race and the map is one of them – for most runners anyway, because almost certainly Moreira will plant Eastern Express in the box seat and that will take the mystery out of it for him.
There aren’t obviously leaders but a few who could assume the role without surprising and they include Flame Hero (Chad Schofield), Basic Trilogy (Kei Chiong Ka-kei) and Romantic Touch (Matthew Chadwick) and Horse Of Fortune.
There’s every chance the lead will come down to Romantic Touch and Basic Instinct and Chiong has shown more restraint at times this season and not pushed on at all costs for the lead, so perhaps she will sit outside Chadwick and the pace won’t be over strong. If that’s the case, it plays into Moreira’s hands and the favourite will get the right scenario to justify any plans going towards an international start.
Last time Flame Hero ran in one of these, he chased home Helene Paragon in June, when that horse was on fire, and he gets a big weight swing here. Flame Hero is an ideal horse for this kind of assignment because he has no pretensions to Group Ones – this is his grand final. The same is true of Basic Trilogy, who has a chance although common wisdom decrees that backing KK without her claim is a negative.