English raider Chemical Charge brings an X-factor to the Group One Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup but connections don’t expect him to take up the lead despite the race being devoid of a front-runner.
With only five horses engaged, that is the biggest question mark heading into the HK$10 million feature – who will set the pace?
On their profiles, the two most likely are Pakistan Star and Eagle Way, given both have raced prominently before.
That would suit the Ralph Beckett-trained six-year-old, who returns to Hong Kong after competing in December’s Hong Kong Vase and is the first international to take part in the Champions & Chater Cup.
Chemical Charge settled towards the tail of the field in that event, before running on strongly to finish fourth, two-and-three-quarter lengths behind Aidan O’Brien’s globetrotter Highland Reel.
“We’re obviously hopeful [about his chances] but we have to see who makes the running and how the race pans out. With only five runners we’ll have to see if it becomes a tactical affair or not,” stable representative Sam Kite said.
“I don’t think you’d want to make the running with him, but other than that, he’s straightforward. He’s very tough.”
Chemical Charge’s biggest win was in the Group Three September Stakes over this trip at Kempton last year, while he came third to Idaho in the Group Two Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot.
He has cut a somewhat lonely figure at Sha Tin the past few mornings as the only visitor at the meeting – vastly different to his first experience during the Hong Kong International Races – but his handlers believe he has coped with the trip in similar fashion.
“He travelled as well as you could have hoped – we’re really pleased, we’ve had no troubles with him,” Kite said.
“Talking to the lads who were here last time it’s all been the same. He has settled in really well.
“We haven’t done too much [on the track], he has just been ticking over really. He was spot on before he flew. He’s the same as he is at home, moving well.”
Irish jockey Oisin Murphy, who won four races during his stint in Hong Kong last season, arrives on Saturday to take the ride.