After giving his stable star a stop-start preparation for his major target, Danny Shum Chap-shing can become the first Chinese trainer to win the Group One Hong Kong Mile with Seasons Bloom.
Shum’s charge had excellent form around Rapper Dragon and Pakistan Star in last season’s four-year-old series and capped his first campaign in Hong Kong with a convincing Class Two win.
Seasons Bloom was a big winner on the opening day of this term, his performance over what was considered a “too short” 1,200m indicating the lightly framed gelding was in for a massive five-year-old season.
It all looked on the up, but at his next start Seasons Bloom disappointed Shum and jockey Joao Moreira when second in the Group Three Celebration Cup and the trainer pressed reset on the horse’s build-up.
A six-week break paid off with a win in the Group Two Jockey Club Mile but now Shum has had three weeks to nurse a horse he admits races best off a longer space between runs.
Still, the signs from morning trackwork and connections are good, and the fact Seasons Bloom has put on weight since that run (1,035 pounds up from 1,028 pounds) is an indication he should hold his form here.
Barrier five is a perfect gate for Seasons Bloom, who prefers to close from midfield or worse – although Moreira may be tempted to sit a pair or two closer in a race which seems to lack speed on paper.
Visitors Karar (Gregory Benoist) and Coolmore pair Lancaster Bomber (Ryan Moore) and Roly Poly (Donnacha O’Brien) have all raced forward previously, but European early speed can be completely different to the hustle-and-bustle nature of racing the locals are accustomed too.
A more likely pacesetter – and a genuine knockout hope – is Beauty Generation, one of the finds of the season, but his jockey Derek Leung Ka-chun will be trying to sneak cheap sectionals and outfox his rivals rather than run them into the ground.
Last year’s winner Beauty Only (Zac Purton) would appreciate a more solid and even tempo – which doesn’t look probable – and the well-grassed course proper won’t provide the rock hard ground he loves.
Besides, Beauty Only is not going as well this time in and perhaps it is Contentment (Brett Prebble) who could be the one from outside the square to surprise at odds.
Contentment was freshened by John Size after a disappointing run in October and although short on match fitness, has clearly relished the time off as indicated by an eye-catching recent trial.