First-up for nearly six months and carrying close to top weight in a Class Two field full of proven performers – on paper it would seem Nothingilikemore is vulnerable when he resumes in the Parmigiani Excellent Handicap (1,400m) on Sunday at Sha Tin.
On paper and in practice are two different things though and the John Size-trained Nothingilikemore, well prepared through three barrier trials, can stamp his class and extend his unbeaten streak.
Nothingilikemore has won four from four so far to take his rating to 98, the last of those victories a comfortable effort against many of the rivals the four-year-old faces again on Sunday.
That was carrying 132 pounds against older horses as well, in a 90-70 ratings band “Class Two”, and while this looms a more difficult assignment, there is also the natural progression Nothingilikemore will have taken from three to four-years-old.
The son of Husson is by no means an imposing looking figure but has been more of a physical presence in trials and it would be hard to find a healthier looking horse than Nothingilikemore was as he headed out for his final lead-up trial.
Nothingilikemore’s ultimate aim this season will obviously be the Hong Kong Classic Mile on January 21 and perhaps the Hong Kong Classic Cup and BMW Hong Kong Derby after that.
Comments from Size this week indicate that Nothingilikemore was going so well that it was time to head back to the races.
“He has had a long enough break – it’s six months since he ran and that’s probably even a bit too long, so I wanted to get him going,” Size said, while remaining non-committal about the horse’s path to the big races.
“I’ll be guided by him but he’ll probably want a couple of runs before the Classic Mile early next year and, at some point, we’ll see if he can run a mile. We don’t really know that much about what he can do yet after just four starts.”
For now 1,400m is clearly not a problem, and from barrier six Joao Moreira will be looking for a one-off spot in midfield.
The presence of Shamal (Dylan Mo Hin-tung), Marvel Tribe (Matthew Chadwick) and Victory Marvel (Jack Wong Ho-nam) means there should be generous pace up front.
The test could come from more seasoned campaigners like Jolly Jolly (Zac Purton), California Whip (Neil Callan) and Simply Invincible (Matthew Poon Ming-fai), all horses with the advantage of age and experience and are coming off solid runs this season.
Sha Tin’s straight course was up to its old tricks last Sunday with an outside rail bias and it will be interesting to see if a return to the false rail will help remedy the situation.
When the inside rail at Sha Tin is in the C configuration, the outside rail remains in the true position.
Last Saturday, horses racing on the outside had a clear advantage, but back on the A course and with the outside three metres of the track sectioned off, perhaps things will even out again.
The test could come in the first race of the day when the David Hall-trained Lucky Time (Zac Purton) jumps from barrier one in the Class Four Piaget Excellent Handicap (1,000m).
Various leg problems kept Lucky Time from the races early but an encouraging sixth on debut showed the gelding might be worth the wait.
It seemed like Lucky Time would need further, not 1,000m, on that occasion after he was outpaced early and only got going over the last 400m.
Lucky Time’s trials this time in have been much more forward though and he faces a field containing three first starters and another two rivals having their second starts.