The best hope for local success in any of Sunday’s Group Ones rests with Lucky Bubbles in the Longines Hong Kong Sprint.
The 1,200m contest has traditionally been one of Hong Kong’s strongest on international day, with Sha Tin-based trainers winning 11 of the past 14 renewals.
Everything has broken right for Francis Lui Kin-wai’s five-year-old and he is clearly the one to beat.
His preparation has been almost flawless, winning the Group Two Premier Bowl first-up, before running on strongly for second in the Jockey Club Sprint last start.
The barrier draw looks like it’s been made to order.
Jockey Brett Prebble should be able to give him the gun run from gate five, while his chief rival, Japanese sprinter Big Arthur, will start from the car park.
There’s a heap of speed inside as well, so while past winners Peniaphobia (2015) and Aerovelocity (2014) push forward, Lucky Bubbles should just ease across and get into a rhythm while the others do the work before launching his attack down the straight.
The tempo is expected to be fast – Gary Moore’s hulking Australian Takedown is another who will push forward – while Joao Moreira, who is riding Amazing Kids, made the bold prediction that the eventual winner will settle fourth or further back given the expected hot speed.
Prebble has already acknowledged he think he’s got the locals covered, which leaves Japanese speedsters Big Arthur and Red Falx as the main dangers.
The latter won the Group One Sprinters Stakes at Nakayama last start, while the former was unlucky and the likelihood is those positions will be reversed.
The main problem for Big Arthur is the barrier, but he’s got class, with trainer Kenichi Fujioka even saying he thinks he would have a shot at beating two-time Sprint champion Lord Kanaloa.
The five-year-old will need plenty of luck and a peach of a ride from Ryan Moore, but he should be in the mix.
The Australian duo of Takedown and Rebel Dane aren’t in the same league as compatriot Chautauqua, who would have likely started favourite if he made the trip, and look a little stretched.
Leading trainer John Size rates Amazing Kids as his best chance in the big races and is capable of winning on his day, while Jockey Club Sprint winner Not Listenin’tome is also racing well and can’t be discounted.
But in the end, it looks a contest between the leading local Lucky Bubbles and Japan’s top sprinter Big Arthur, but the barriers and race setup point to a Hong Kong victory.