The top four-year-olds take centre stage on Sunday at Sha Tin but exciting three-year-old Nothingilikemore provides the Hong Kong Classic Cup undercard with a horse that could be contesting the main event 12 months from now.
Nothingilikemore is one of the most exciting prospects to emerge during the first half of the season and it’s no surprise the progressive youngster is from the John Size stable.
Size has 46 wins from 46 meetings so far to lead by eight, but it is young talents like this, a gelding that seems to have plenty of ratings points in hand, that make a ninth championship seem assured.
But even if Nothingilikemore looks on the way up in a hurry, he has certainly found an above average Class Three in which to prove himself and Joao Moreira will have to weave his magic from a difficult draw.
Nothingilikemore faces a bunch of rivals that are either of a progressive nature, in-form or both – and will need to take a step up in the Tak Ku Ling Handicap.
Fellow three-year-old Regency Bo Bo (Neil Callan) has been running well at the course and distance, while Super Sixteen (Silvestre de Sousa) and Mongolian King (Nash Rawiller) have at least a Class Three win in them.
Even veterans Friends Of Nanjing (Zac Purton) and Mighty Maverick (Karis Teetan) might have some claims, and then there is Generous Heart (Chad Schofield), beaten just a short head as favourite two weeks ago.
It makes for a great test for Nothingilikemore, who was superb on debut four weeks ago, sweeping from near the tail for Ryan Moore with an electric turn of foot.
The step up to 1,400m also looks ideal, although barrier 13 does add a degree of difficulty.
Moreira put Nothingilikemore through his paces in a nice trial last week where the youngster served a reminder he has some early speed, but from the draw on Sunday it would seem a more sensible option to take a hold.
Still, there seems to be very little speed in this race and perhaps Moreira will hunt forward for a position, especially with a slightly more moderate tempo at 1,400m on the A course.
Jade Theatre looks the most likely candidate to make the running, with Regency Bo Bo pushing forward on his outside and Mighty Maverick maintaining a handy position from his low draw.
Also on the undercard are a group of Hong Kong Derby hopefuls looking to push their claims with ratings-boosting performances.
Booming Delight (Sam Clipperton) actually had the required rating to run in the Classic Cup but John Moore opted to put the in-form import in the Lung Kong Handicap.
Booming Delight is joined by stablemates and fellow Derby entries Helene Charisma and Let Us Win in the 2,000m Class Two in which the 89-rater will be chasing three straight wins.
Progressing to the Derby outside of the four-year-old series can be tricky and Booming Delight has won over 1,800m and then a mile at his last two, but stepping to 2,000m for the first time shouldn’t be a problem.
Booming Delight, who was sixth at only his fourth career start in last year’s Britannia Stakes, is by Fastnet Rock and out of a Galileo mare.
The biggest issue here is barrier 10 from the tricky starting point, with the horse having drawn gates one and two at his past couple of runs.
It is crunch time for Helene Charisma (Douglas Whyte) and Let Us Win (Tommy Berry) with few chances left after Sunday to push for a place in the Derby.
Helene Charisma probably has the rating but a last start flop as favourite in the Group Three Centenary Vase was particularly worrying for a colt that looked too one-paced in trials.
Let Us Win basically needs to win, and win well, if he is any chance of working his way into the Derby field on March 20, but to be fair his last start effort can be forgiven after he found trouble in the straight.