The toughest part about the HK$16 million Champions Mile at Sha Tin on Sunday is working out how it will be run, because Rapper Dragon should be another big mile winner for John Moore whatever happens.
But we have seen the great uncertainty of racing bringing good things unstuck before and the pace of a race is a major component of that uncertainty.
Last week’s QE II Cup was run at a walking pace and Joao Moreira had the horse and the skills to take advantage with Neorealism, and Sunday’s Group One mile might be a carbon copy.
Contentment is the default leader, he led and won in a lower grade but hasn’t been a front-runner as he got up in class and has not looked in love with the role lately. He had blinkers on last start and John Size has removed those, which should help, but he didn’t look comfortable in the front role in the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup either and that was without the blinkers.
Then there’s a possible surprise leader, Convey, who looks quite an aggressive horse and might take himself up towards the lead if the pace is too soft, but it’s hard to imagine that it will be Olivier Peslier’s intention.
They are your leaders. Moreira would probably like to drop Rapper Dragon in behind them and have a horse to follow to the home turn but whether he is afforded that preference remains to be seen.
But we saw last week – and see constantly – that Moreira can craft a ride to suit the race and his skills will be called on here. And once again, he has the horse.
Rapper Dragon has coped with changing tactics as he has gone up and down in distance during his Hong Kong career and as he went through differently run races in the four-year-old series.
That versatility gives him a real edge in races and particularly in this race, where his only serious danger looks to be Beauty Only (Zac Purton) and he does not have that tactical versatility.
In big fields, Beauty Only is hostage to the tempo while Rapper Dragon can make, or at least contribute to, his own luck, and in a small field it’s still an edge.
Last start, Beauty Only was close in the first 200m and probably had the same sort of speed as Circuit Land, who was drawn under him then but is outside him this time. However, Purton risks a pocket if he goes there and, in any scenario, it appears that Rapper Dragon will get first run on him.
In the Chairman’s Trophy last time, Beauty Only gave Rapper Dragon five pounds and at level weights they may be closer but, as Purton pointed out, Rapper Dragon indicates that he might have more in the locker if challenged.