The Michael Freedman-trained Sparkling Dragon has not put a foot wrong so far and the promising gelding should have every chance to keep his unbeaten record intact in the Griffin Trophy (1,400m) at Sha Tin on Saturday.
One of the few events open only to three-year-olds each season, the Griffin Trophy is a serious race for serious money and has produced some very good gallopers on their way up the charts – the last four winners have been Pakistan Star, People’s Knight, Line Seeker and Luger.
This field carries plenty of upside too and Sparkling Dragon (Sam Clipperton) is the one yet to taste defeat, leading throughout over 1,200m and 1,400m to win his two runs so far.
The form of Sparkling Dragon’s first win over Eighty Eighty and Noble Steed has already proved very good, with first and third both winning since, and Eighty Eighty will be strongly fancied to win his race on Saturday to add more weight to it.
In his second win, he might have been fortunate to beat third-placed Gallant Return (Derek Leung Ka-chun), who meets him again here, but there is a tactical edge to Sparkling Dragon.
Freedman has said after both wins that he is looking forward to Sparkling Dragon being able to sit behind the speed, as he believes he will be better suited but once again he appeals as the most likely pacemaker in a race without leaders.
He is a talented galloper and the fact he can be in front or sit behind is a decided edge in what looks a tactical race, especially with blinkers going on both Win Beauty Win (Zac Purton) and Amazing Satchmo.
Leading would certainly take some luck factor out of the equation as the pace is most likely going to be similar to Sparkling Dragon’s last win, when he carried 133 pounds under the conditions of that race and now drops to 125 pounds.
The David Hall-trained Gallant Return looked likely to win that last clash when he loomed with a run between Sparkling Dragon and Win Beauty Win until Purton on the latter horse shut the gate and the run disappeared, relegating him to third.
On the face value of that, he is as good a chance as any but the changes in the barrier draws and weights have not played in his favour. Gate seven looks trickier in the field of nine and likely means Gallant Return giving his conquerors last time more of a head start.
Alcari is another very nice horse on the rise and shouldn’t be ignored. Notably, while the last race Sparkling Dragon won was for Class Four-rated three-year-olds only, Alcari is coming out of a good run against open ages in Class Three.