Champion trainer John Size has some history to draw on for Nothingilikemore and the four-year-old can give him a third success in the HK$18 million BMW Hong Kong Derby on Sunday at Sha Tin.
Had there been ante-post betting on this race for months in advance as there is on some classics overseas, Nothingilikemore (Joao Moreira) would have been favourite since the middle of 2017.
At that point, Nothingilikemore was unbeaten and not looking likely to be beaten any time soon, almost certain to run a mile before any stamina questions started to loom.
Even after his opening three plays this season, which included his first defeat, Nothingilikemore had swept away the Classic Mile field and was looking the next version of last year’s four-year-old clean sweep champion, the ill-fated Rapper Dragon.
Only with his defeat into fourth behind Singapore Sling (Chad Schofield) in the Classic Cup over 1,800m did any cracks really start to appear in the case for the Derby. Did he run the 1,800m? Should he have done better despite missing the jump? Was there a foot problem?
Size dismissed all, feeling the start had made the difference and, if he is right, then Nothingilikemore remains a worthy favourite, as he has been at every other race start.
Now the newest issue is gate 13 but his trainer has some blueprints to work with from his previous winners, Fay Fay, who jumped from gate 14, and Luger, who started from barrier 12.
Each of them jumped fast, looking to come across behind a touted leader – Fay Fay behind Liberator and Luger behind Anticipation. In neither case did it happen – Liberator’s rider controversially took a sit, Anticipation missed the jump. Fay Fay got over anyway, while Luger wasn’t quite as lucky – being held three wide by two stablemates but he was good enough to overcome it.
The speed map doesn’t look as problematical as The Golden Age has been a foolproof leader and looks the front-runner even from gate 11, with Moreira looking to jump Nothingilikemore fast from two gates wider to follow him across and sit handy to the speed. From there he should get his chance to show that he is indeed the best horse in the race.
Singapore Sling won’t have any of that to worry about and from gate three he should land straight behind the leader and go to sleep before Schofield needs him to join the race at the top of the straight. His luck in running looks assured and that makes him a serious danger.
In a race that appears thin on real chances, Exultant (Zac Purton) and Nothingilikemore’s stablemate Ping Hai Star (Ryan Moore) look the other dangers but both will give their main rivals a start.