Monday’s year-opening Group Three feature would do justice to any Group One handicap in countries where they have those, but that won’t stop punters rallying to the John Size-trained Beat The Clock fresh out of Class Two.
The Chinese Club Challenge Cup (1,400m) has been a precursor to Group One careers in the past and the way Beat The Clock (Joao Moreira) won his first run this season, it wouldn’t be difficult to suggest that is the direction this four-year-old is heading.
Moreira made the decision to ride Beat The Clock conservatively from an awkward draw over the 1,200m, sitting last to the home turn.
Under 133 pounds, Beat the Clock should have been in some trouble from that point but instead he was startlingly good, leaping out of the ground in the final 200m to win coming away by a length and a half.
In doing so, he managed to run the final 400m half a second faster than any other runner on a day when Hong Kong’s best sprinters and milers were on show in their lead-ups to the international meeting.
His performance that day, blew away anything produced by the established Group One horses and now he meets quite a few of them under favourable conditions.
He is a Group One horse in waiting, but, because he is still climbing the ladder, Beat The Clock gets a big parcel of handicap weight from the horses which have been there and done that.
If anything, he should be better suited by 1,400m, a distance over which he has already put together a strong record, and Beat the Clock is adaptable tactically.
Size has won this race three times previously, the first of them by Grand Delight in 2003, when the gelding laid the groundwork for becoming the Horse of the Year and champion sprinter in town until Silent Witness came along to take that title.
The set-up of the race also means that those most likely to give Beat the Clock some trouble are those who don’t need to concede him handicap pounds.
Southern Legend (Umberto Rispoli) already has one highly rated Size scalp to his credit this season, Nothingilikemore. A Group winner in Australia, Southern Legend’s local record is building nicely, he is proven at 1,400m now and trainer Caspar Fownes thinks he will run further as well.
He probably gives the favourite a start but he too has an upward momentum and a repeat of his last run should see him in the finish, along with Fifty Fifty (Karis Teetan).
Helene Paragon and Beauty Only represent proven form but, with their get-back running styles, they do need a bit to go right and the last winner with more than 128 pounds to carry was Scintillation 12 years ago.