What do Lucky Nine, Peniaphobia, Aerovelocity and Lucky Bubbles have in common? Not only are they all Group One-winning sprinters but each was beaten first-up after being imported, something Southern Legend will be hoping to avoid on Sunday at Sha Tin.
Southern Legend has the look of a sprinter that could progress into Group races, but the aforementioned names show just how daunting a task first-up assignments can be for imports.
A series of forward trials, barrier one and Joao Moreira booked to ride mean Southern Legend is likely to start close to favourite in the Class Two California Memory Handicap (1,200m).
The son of leading Australian sire Not A Single Doubt brings a decent bank of form, and unlike the sprinters previously mentioned, is already four.
The other thing the four sprinters mentioned had in common is that they were three-year-olds on debut, giving weight to older rivals in a handicap, while Southern Legend is hardened by the experience of racing against open company in Australia.
Southern Legend arrives with Caspar Fownes rated 87 with a record of four wins from nine starts, working his way through benchmark races and then capturing the Listed Darby Munro Stakes as a three-year-old.
Returning at four, Southern Legend won first-up in Sydney before three big runs, including two placings, at Group Two level.
When exposed at that level, Southern Legend’s runs were characterised by not only above average gate speed, but courage in a finish as well, with his last two runs, in particular, catching the eye.
Fownes has sent Southern Legend to the trials four times in preparation for this, the final two more forward efforts with blinkers on.
Interestingly, Southern Legend did not wear blinkers in Australia and Fownes has left the head gear off for the local debut, perhaps leaving them as an ace up his sleeve.
The question for Southern Legend might not be whether or not he is good enough to win on Sunday, for which he looks more prepared than most Private Purchases sent out first time, but how much upside the gelding has left after that.
Moreira gets the chance to reunite with the John Size-trained sprinter My Darling in the Class Two Viva Pataca Handicap (1,400m) after injury forced him to stand-down last start.
The Brazilian was due to ride in the four-year-old’s first run after the Derby on May 7, but a hamstring strain suffered earlier in the day meant he gave up the ride.
My Darling ran a huge race, trapped three-wide with cover in the run from gate 14, and then Brett Prebble found himself cluttered between horses in the straight, only getting clear with 100 metres to go.
Barrier nine means Moreira isn’t exactly guaranteed an easy run on Sunday either, but My Darling clearly has a few ratings points in hand judging on the last start effort.
Another interesting Moreira runner hampered by a wide draw is three-year-old Relentless Me, with Chris So Wai-yin’s three-year-old stepping up in trip in the Class Four Liberator Handicap (1,400m).
Relentless Me looked like he needed more ground when he won on debut late last month, working through the gears and then floating a touch when he hit the front.
The gelding probably lacks a little spark at this point but 1,400m is more suitable, even if the barrier means he will need some luck.