“What could have been ...” stories are a dime a dozen in racing. For all of their grace and power, thoroughbreds are a surprisingly fragile animal and if one kicks a wall or missteps at trackwork, it can be career over.

In Hong Kong, there hasn’t been a more tragic tale of unfulfilled promise than Rapper Dragon’s meteoric rise and premature demise.

Rapper Dragon swept the 2017 four-year-old series, dominating in the Derby and even added a Group Two against older horses to his record, but John Moore’s horse never got a chance to prove just how good he could be.

The 2017 Champions Mile was meant to be the new king of Hong Kong racing’s coronation – he had won four races in a row – but Rapper Dragon broke down and later died as a result of his injuries.

Rapper Dragon is gone but, a year after his death, Champions Day results provided a reminder of the 2016-17 Horse of the Year’s potential greatness.

Pakistan Star dominated in the Audemars Piguet QE II Cup and Beauty Generation won a third Group One for the season in the Champions Mile – a continuation of the Derby Class of ’17’s superb form this season.

Pakistan Star was second to Rapper Dragon in the Classic Cup and Derby, but never really threatened to get past his rival.

Beauty Generation was third in the Derby and he is now likely to win 2017-18 Horse of the Year honours, but the form around Rapper Dragon doesn’t stop there.

Seasons Bloom was fourth in the 2018 Derby and although unplaced as favourite in the Champions Mile, he won the Group One Stewards’ Cup and the Group Two Jockey Club Mile this season.

Back in the 2017 Derby field were the two QE II Cup placegetters, Eagle Way and Gold Mount.

Eagle Way chases a second straight Group Three Queen Mother Memorial Cup this weekend and won the Group Three January Cup earlier this season.

Gold Mount showed with his Class One win at Happy Valley and his effort last weekend that he will be a Group race contender in the future.

While it is obvious that the horses behind Rapper Dragon were open to improvement, so was he – both Moore and jockey Joao Moreira said the Australian import had plenty to learn.

“He was getting better each day,” Moore said. “We never know of course, but under Moreira’s guidance he was rapidly improving. He just had an affinity with that horse and got the very best out of him.”

‘He wouldn’t go down, even with a fractured pelvis’: Joao Moreira pays tribute to brave Rapper Dragon

Rapper Dragon had his quirks – he bucked his way onto the track with Karis Teetan aboard at the start of his four-year-old campaign, hated the trials on the all-weather track and still had a tendency to snake his way up the straight and run away from the whip when urged by Moreira.

“I’ll never forget that day Derek Leung (Ka-chun) pulled him up in a trial, the horse just wouldn’t go on the dirt,” Moore said. “In that way he was still open to a lot of improvement – he still had his little idiosyncrasies.

“He got to a high rating early, before the four-year-old series, but he then went on with it. And I think he was going to go on with it again.”