When Italian jockey Alberto Sanna looked up Mr Lumieres’ race replays from Australia and saw the rickety running rail, the drought-ridden grass on the infield and dust flying behind the field, he had to wonder about the form.
“I watched it and thought ‘what the hell is this?’ It was an impressive win but I thought the form can’t be that strong,” Sanna said of the three-length victory at Leeton in country New South Wales.
Mr Lumieres soon proved Sanna wrong with a tidy half-length win in his Hong Kong debut at Sha Tin on February 18 that marked the import as a horse with a solid future.
When it comes to previous form for horses arriving in Hong Kong, looks can be deceiving, and David Hall's smart new sprinter is a perfect case in point.
The lower grades are littered with horses boasting minor placings in prestigious events who have not lived up to their billing.
Conversely, humble beginnings can bring about a star performer, like an Australian provincial maiden producing Able Friend or Gold-Fun coming out of a three-year-old maiden at Naas in Ireland.
Mr Lumieres upside probably sits somewhere between those two extreme examples but first-up debut wins by imports are rare and now the four-year-old shoots for back-to-back wins up the Sha Tin straight on Saturday in the Class Three Tern Handicap (1,000m).
Hall admitted Mr Lumieres Australian form was “interesting” but has had positive experience with horses of similar profile previously.
“He had a few bush wins but he did go to town and run second and that’s when he indicated he might be flying under the radar a little bit,” Hall said. “And we were able to buy him for the right price.”
The trainer’s last Group race success was with sprinter Rad – a horse who raced at tiny tracks in Cessnock, Port Macquarie and Gosford before qualifying with a win at Hawkesbury.
“I'm not comparing the horses but it does show that you can’t overlook that type of form sometimes,” he said. “You can’t just dismiss it as rubbish and he was winning at similar type tracks to Rad. Most people would see Leeton in the form and wouldn't even look past the name of the track. But he was winning impressively and the horse he ran second to at Rosehill then went on with it.”
That horse was Fickle Folly, who placed at Group Three level a start later and won a metropolitan race a weekend before Mr Lumieres debut.
Mr Lumieres’ breeding also provides some evidence of class, with the gelding a half-brother to Group Three winner Divine Ten, a winner of five from eight for trainer Me Tsui Yu-sak before a tendon problem ended his time at Sha Tin.
Although a six-point rise in the ratings gets Mr Lumieres in well for this next race, he faces a couple of key new rivals in the form of Water Diviner (Matthew Chadwick) and Bravo Watchman (Joao Moreira), who runs for the first time since international day.
Bravo Watchman entered this season unbeaten in three starts and many experts had the hulking sprinter listed as a horse to watch this time in.
Two of those victories were up the straight and the four-year-old returns to the course for the first time this season, his body weight up 23 pounds to 1,252 pounds.
The Class Two Snipe Handicap (1,800m) looms as a fascinating clash between four-year-olds aimed at the BMW Hong Kong Derby on March 18.
Seven of the 10 runners are Derby eligible with the John Moore-trained pair Rivet (Sam Clipperton) and Ruthven (Zac Purton) likely to sit near the top of markets.