The last favourite to win the Classic Cup (1,800m) was Floral Pegasus 10 years ago and a very similar type of horse in the John Moore-trained Rapper Dragon looks the one to beat in the second four-year-old major on Sunday at Sha Tin.
Floral Pegasus was a high-quality miler who took the Classic Mile comfortably before a soft Classic Cup victory sprinting off a slow tempo made him a hot favourite for the Derby.
There was an anti-climax on Derby day when Floral Pegasus narrowly failed to hold off Vital King, and it’s hard to ignore the parallels between him and Rapper Dragon.
Sprinting too well off a slow pace in the Classic Mile, Rapper Dragon (Joao Moreira) gave nothing else a chance and there is every prospect that this race sets up the same way.
Once more, there is little speed in the race, with California Whip and Winner’s Way probably the fastest horses in the race but neither of them will be keen to set a strong tempo that will test Rapper Dragon’s stamina at his first start beyond a mile.
The prospect is that Moore’s top pick will camp in midfield stepping up to the extra distance – and especially over the Sha Tin 1,800m with the long run to the first turn – and then have too much turn of foot for other horses who might see their best chance of overturning him will come in a few weeks in the Derby.
Results in this event have been notoriously of the upset kind, with It Has To Be You winning at 125-1 a few years ago and double digit-priced winners have been the rule, not the exception.
Still, it is hard not to see Rapper Dragon as a deservedly short-priced favourite to replicate the efforts of Floral Pegasus and Sun Jewellery as the only Classic Mile winners to repeat the dose in the Classic Cup, even if history calls out caution.
His danger could be another horse with stamina queries, Seasons Bloom (Nash Rawiller), who also has the big turn of foot for a soft tempo even if the 1,800m is a question mark.
Like Rapper Dragon, he got to the line off the soft pace in the Classic Mile and his draw allows him to sit within a reasonable range without bustling, while some others have awkward draws that will mean they get too far back.
Beauty Generation (Zac Purton) may not have the dash of the favourite when the sprint goes on but he does have some tactical speed and is one who should be laying down his marker for the Derby today.