Harmony Hero’s previous performances and lead-up trials have tongues wagging but trainer Richard Gibson has tried to temper expectations as the three-year-old makes his local debut in the Class Three Singapore River Handicap (1,200m).

Formerly known as Lina’s Hero, the son of Elvstroem won two-from-two as a two-year-old by a combined five-and-a-half lengths, beating future Group One winner Mighty Boss at his second start.

Three excellent trials have only increased the hype around the import but Gibson was quick to point to the difficulty horses have winning first-up in Hong Kong – no matter how well credentialed or prepared they are.

“We have to take into consideration that the horse is first-up for more than six months,” he said. “Speak to any trainer in the world, it’s a very tough task to have a horse at his best first-up from that sort of break, and that is not even taking into consideration that he has moved to a different country. It’s always a worry for a trainer, six months is a long time in any horse’s career and you can do as much prep as you like, but it is a hard task. In many ways this could be the hardest race of his career here.”

Gibson has had success with imports before but it has been more than three years since he produced a Private Purchase for a first-up victory.

That winner was Jetwings in January 2015, a month after subsequent Group One winner Giant Treasure was able to score on international day first-up, but it is worth noting that even Gibson’s superstar sprinter-miler Gold-Fun was unable to manage the feat.

Tommy Berry rode the three-year-old in a recent trial and track gallop and although the jockey was also cautious about Harmony Hero’s chances first-up, he seemed in no doubt about the gelding’s potential.

“He is a lovely type to look at and he keeps improving every time he goes to the trials,” Berry said. “He gave me a great feel in his trial at Happy Valley which is a good sign because he probably isn’t a Happy Valley horse. He just let down so well there, but getting back to Sha Tin should help him. He has a few factors against him, with a wide barrier with the rail out, and he may need to race back in the field. But from how he feels in trackwork and in trials, I do think he is better than a Class Three horse.”

Adding to the caution is the race distance with Berry and Gibson seeing Harmony Hero getting over further in time.

“This could be the last time you see him at 1,200m,” Berry said. “It might be a little sharp for him but I will be disappointed if he isn’t storming home.”