There are some hurdles to jump for Gran Master at Sha Tin on Sunday but he still looks the horse to beat in the Chinese General Chamber of Commerce Cup (1,650m).
On a low-key day, the dirt Class Four over the extended mile is one of the trophy races and Gran Master (Joao Moreira) gets a chance to build on a promising start to his career after breaking his maiden status first-up from the summer break.
A number of those who opposed him there will oppose Gran Master again and, despite a seven-point rating lift for the victory, the Peter Ho-trained five-year-old looks a likely favourite even with a gate one draw.
For many horses, barrier one is the dream draw but it might not be for Gran Master, who is still learning his trade and has not looked completely straight forward with horses around him.
In fairness, he was foolproof first-up, when Moreira was able to park in midfield then get going around the outside when the tempo lifted but gate one might make that kind of tactical manoeuvre more problematical.
The grey also shapes like he will relish further than 1,650m, so another slowly run race with a sprint home in the offing might also work against him.
Still, he does look the runner with the most upside after just five starts without a bad run among them and he has the Magic Man to help with any navigational issues.
Don’t be surprised to see lightly weighted Scarborough Fair (Derek Leung Ka-chun) offer decent competition here despite a huge price in overnight betting.
The Richard Gibson-trained gelding is another with little racing behind him and he shapes like a horse who will handle the dirt as well.
He was quite keen-running in his races last season and again in a slowly run 1,650m first-up at Happy Valley, where he battled on well enough to run fourth.
With the benefit of that run under the belt, Scarborough Fair might have had the freshness knocked off him and that will be the key to his chance.
In a race without many forward runners, if he can relax in running, he has the speed to take a prominent position and will keep on going with his light weight.
Imperial Concorde (Karis Teetan) is another interesting runner, having his first run for the Frankie Lor Fu-chuen stable. He is well handicapped even on his form from last season, let alone his older form, and Lor’s team is flying.
The likely tempo isn’t ideal for Imperial Concorde but at his best he would have toyed with these and his barrier trial indicated he is in good form. It will be a case of whether he still has something to offer as a rising eight-year-old or needs a drop in class to spark him.