The John Moore-trained Werther can avenge his defeat in December, make it back-to-back Citi Hong Kong Gold Cups at Sha Tin on Sunday and seal a trip to next month’s Dubai’s World Cup meeting.
This is a Group One race with layers to it and the tactical battle is high up on the list of points of interest.
Time Warp (Zac Purton) got the run of the house in the Hong Kong Cup, dictating the tempo, raising the speed as the race went along and he never really even faced a serious challenge at any stage of the race to beat Werther by more than two lengths.
There will be punters who can’t see how he will turn around that deficit and maybe he won’t, but a lot can change from one race to the next, and horses don’t usually get to do twice what Time Warp did that day.
One of the things which has changed is Hugh Bowman getting back on Werther but, more importantly, his blinkers have returned.
Werther’s blinkers had come off last May when he stepped up to 2,400m, in an effort to make him more relaxed. It worked and Moore left the head gear off afterwards but there’s no doubt Werther doesn’t have the same tactical abilities when he is that relaxed.
He became stuck in the ruck in the Hong Kong Cup, with visiting horses and jockeys in front of him unwilling or unable to give chase to Time Warp when they needed to and acting as a roadblock for anything Tommy Berry might have wanted to do himself. That is how the race got away from him.
Whoever rode Werther here, it’s unlikely he would be falling into the same trap and, if Time Warp does get to make his own play again today, expect to see him tackled earlier rather than allowed to steal it again.
Werther is capable of doing that and perhaps so is Pakistan Star (Matthew Chadwick), now that he seems to have found some tactical speed with cheek pieces replacing blinkers on the quirky horse. He kept up well in his trials, and importantly didn’t over-race, which he had done in past races when ridden forward in blinkers. That might mean that Time Warp has both his main rivals breathing down his neck coming around the home turn and not just waving him goodbye.
He has lost nothing in his form this season and Werther is a deserved favourite in what looks a fantastic race.
Seasons Bloom (Joao Moreira) and Gold Mount (Christophe Soumillon) complete the puzzle – the former a query at 2,000m but has not failed at it and the latter the late closer who could knock them all over if they’ve chased Time Warp too hard, too early.