Nothingilikemore is set to be the latest rising star to use the international day undercard as a launch pad to the four-year-old series when the John Size-trained talent contests the programme’s always competitive 1,400m Class One handicap.
International day was dubbed “show off day” by former trainer David Hayes because of the tendency of trainers to enter their best young talent for the support races on the card.
The Class One has an honour roll so full of starts that has almost taken the shape of the day’s fifth feature in recent years.
It takes a classy horse, and usually one on the way to bigger things, to win it and Nothingilikemore, with an unbeaten record and the nominal favourite for next month’s Hong Kong Classic Mile, certainly fits the bill.
Last year, Blizzard won the Class One before breaking through at Group Three level at his following start and on Sunday contests the Group One Hong Kong Sprint.
In 2015, Size used the race as a stepping stone for Sun Jewellery before he took the Hong Kong Classic Mile-Classic Cup double at his next two starts, while his 2012 Derby hero Fay Fay was also a winner at the meeting when he won the 1,600m Class Two.
Other recent four-year-old series winners to stamp their presence on the showpiece day in the 1,600m Class Two were the John Moore-trained Werther (2015) and Able Friend (2013).
Nothingilikemore’s credentials are straightforward and clearly represented by both the five “ones” next to his name in the form book and the 57 points he has risen in the ratings.
So rapid has Nothingilikemore’s ascension been, the gelding is only rated five points less than 2017 Derby winner Rapper Dragon was on the same day last year – and Rapper Dragon had already placed in a Group One in Australia and won a Group Three race as a three-year-old.
The 109-rated Nothingilikemore (Joao Moreira) carries 125 pounds in the Flying Dancer Handicap but faces a nine-horse field that looks weaker than some editions of this race.
An interesting horse to watch is the 2014 winner Dundonnell (Neil Callan), who resumes for first-year trainer Frankie Lor Fu-chuen.
Lor has stormed his way to the top of the trainers’ championship standings with lower-ranked handicappers but Dundonnell represents a challenge of a different sort and is the handler’s highest-ranked horse on a mark of 110.
Dundonnell is first-up for more than six months after treatment for chronic leg issues and hasn’t won for more than two-and-a-half years but the seven-year-old’s most recent trial indicates he could be ready to run a big race after a patient preparation.
Lor also has a terrific chance with Simply Brilliant (Nash Rawiller) in the Class Two Able Friend Handicap (1,200m).
Simply Brilliant, who raced as Senator in the United Kingdom, was strong when second first-up at Happy Valley and is set to become the first son of Frankel to win in Hong Kong.
The three-year-old has drawn ideally in barrier four and caught the eye of early risers at trackwork on Thursday with a brisk workout on the dirt for Rawiller.
Lor heads into Sunday’s meeting with 25 wins and a lead of four over his former boss John Size, and the two trainers go head-to-head with the leading chances in the Class Three Jim And Tonic Handicap (1,400m).
Spicy Sure (Zac Purton) was denied by the Size-trained Time To Celebrate last start but gets another chance from a low draw over the same course and distance.
This time it is Size’s three-year-old Calculation (Hugh Bowman) issuing the challenge.
Calculation has been unlucky at times this season and last start it took a freakish last-to-first run from Diamond Dragon to touch him off.