The Group Three January Cup (1,800m) at Happy Valley on Wednesday night is probably as tough a race as you will see but the city track feature gives course specialist Packing Dragon a great chance to get himself back in the winner’s stall.
The only black type race at the Happy Valley track all season, the January Cup is nevertheless a Group Three only by name and prizemoney as the structure of it is more like a Class One.
So the jump in grade for horses like The Golden Age (Matthew Chadwick) and Packing Dragon (Umberto Rispoli) is not what it might be normally coming out of Class Two races.
Key to the race will be the tempo, and it’s hard not to lean to this pair as they look like having control up front, while their rivals mostly like to sit back and wait.
The Golden Age has led all the way at his only two performances this season and is drawn inside Packing Dragon, so that probably gives him the edge in getting to the rail first. But Packing Dragon has been just as successful sitting outside the leader, so there is no reason for him to rock the boat and be too aggressive and he can park there comfortably until the serious work begins.
Packing Dragon was last season’s Happy Valley Million Challenge winner and has already done what most winners of that contest don’t and that is win another race subsequently.
He disappointed at Sha Tin last start but has yet to win at the big track, while his record at the Valley reads 14 starts for six wins and four of those over the 1,800m, so it should pay to overlook his latest performance.
The Golden Age came from France with some juvenile form in Group races and, while he is still working up to the top level here, he should get a good test against some battle-hardened opposition before trainer Tony Cruz switches him to Sha Tin for the four-year-old classics.