“The Big Unit” Pingwu Spark is expected to roll his way into Group race calculations with another win on Sunday but the grey giant might meet his match – at least in the size stakes – in the form of 2018 BMW Hong Kong Derby contender Good Standing.
Pingwu Spark has won three of his four starts this season to rise to a rating of 97 but it has been the Benno Yung Tin-pang's soaring body weight that has also drawn plenty of attention.
The five-year-old weighed in at 1,295 pounds for his debut run late last term, but has gone up in weight each time he has gone around since.
Last start, Pingwu Spark tipped the scales at a whopping 1,332 pounds at the pre-race weigh-in – the highest body weight for a starter since giant Australian visitor Takedown ran in the 2016 Hong Kong Sprint weighing 1,365 pounds.
Pingwu Spark (Derek Leung Ka-chun) is likely to start favourite after drawing gate six in the Class Two Lukfook Jewellery Beloved Collection Handicap (1,400m) but expect support for the monster drawn alongside him, Good Standing (Zac Purton).
When body weights are released on Friday afternoon, Good Standing is expected to weigh over 1,300 pounds – but unlike Pingwu Spark, that number should be heading down, not up, as he progresses towards the Derby in March.
Rated 90 after a 12-start career for James Cummings in Australia where he won the Group Three Caulfield Classic over 2,000m, but Good Standing also performed well over shorter trips.
Those performances include a classy last start victory over 1,350m at Listed level, a Group Two win as a two-year-old over 1,200m and a third behind subsequent Group One winners Impending and Divine Prophet over 1,500m.
Also encouraging was Good Standing's excellent lead-up trial, his second for John Moore, where the colt strode up beside sprinter Amazing Star in impressive fashion, just ahead of budding superstar and possible Hong Kong Classic Mile rival Beat The Clock.
It would seem Good Standing's credentials stack up from a Classics perspective, but also from a distance standpoint, the only question is whether he can return from a six-month break and match a race fit horse like Pingwu Spark first-up.
The race also contains a couple of other 2018 Derby hopefuls, including the Tony Cruz-trained Doctor Geoff (Matthew Chadwick) after his smart debut.
Cruz's Sacred Elixir is out of the Derby picture with a tendon injury but he still holds a strong hand as he chases his third win in the race as a trainer.
Exultant and The Golden Age both look bona fide chances as the four-year-old series approaches but Doctor Geoff has some points in hand judging by his first-up display.
The Irish import arrived after two wins from three starts for Ger Lyons and ran home strongly for second behind Pingwu Spark late last month – form that was franked when third-placed Time To Celebrate won well last Sunday.
Gate 12 on the C + 3 is a blow for Doctor Geoff and it will be hard to catch the on-pace runners like Pingwu Spark and Good Standing.
Paul O'Sullivan's 85-rated four-year-old Zilong (Brett Prebble) is also Derby-bound and has drawn barrier one but is another that hasn't raced since the Brisbane carnival in June.
For many punters, the race represents a last chance for talented but wayward type Limitless (Nash Rawiller) after the 2016 Britannia Stakes winner flopped again last start.
Limitless has a booming finish but wastes precious energy in races fighting with his rider and has been virtually impossible to be ridden with any sort of finesse since his arrival.
The dirt didn't work for the gelding but back at the course and distance where he has notched his only Hong Kong win and on a rating of 96, Limitless needs to show something here.