Tony Cruz’s Romantic Touch can become the first horse to sweep the interport series in more than a decade when he steps out in Saturday’s Class One Hong Kong Macau Trophy (1,400m) at Sha Tin.
According to the record books, the last horse to win both legs in the same year was Helene Pillaging – another Cruz trainee – back in 2005, but that is not entirely accurate.
In 2007, the Joe Lau-trained Crown’s Master took out the Taipa race and then three weeks later was first past the post at Sha Tin but was subsequently disqualified after returning a positive to a steroid and John Moore’s Tiber was declared the winner.
In any case, winning both at home and away in the same season is not a regular occurrence but circumstances will give Romantic Touch every chance to achieve the feat.
The seven-year-old is actually chasing his third straight win in the series, having won the past two renewals in Macau – and was dominant in the most recent one, saluting by four-and-a-quarter lengths.
He comes into the race on the back of an eye-catching second over this course and distance a fortnight ago, but his biggest advantage is that the horse who beat him that day – John Size’s What Else But You – was withdrawn from this race on Friday morning with an inflamed front left fetlock.
What Else But You would probably have started favourite, but one man’s loss is another man’s gain and Romantic Touch is the one who can benefit most.
There should be a solid pace to work off with Calculation (Karis Teetan), Marvel Tribe (Eddy Lai Wai-ming) and The Golden Age (Tommy Berry) all likely to push forward.
If Douglas Whyte can slot in and find some cover with Romantic Touch from barrier 11, he can run over the top of his rivals and claim the HK$2.5 million feature.
He narrowly gets the edge over Calculation, who is racing in terrific form but steps up to Class One for the first time.
In the four-year-old’s most recent run at this course and distance he also finished second to What Else But You.
He put in a terrific run when second on the all-weather track over 1,650m last start, burning along far too quickly during the middle stages and only running out of puff late, so he should relish the step back in distance.
If Calculation does get his own way in front again, the 19-pound weight advantage over Romantic Touch could be the difference.
There are only two Macau challengers left in the field after the withdrawals of Mister Kaopu and Victory Megastar, but it would be a big surprise if either Kelowna Star or Krystrump upstaged the home team.