The final race of the day at Sha Tin provides a tantalising clash between four of Hong Kong racing’s brightest young stars but could also decide a Jockey Challenge that seems set for a grandstand finish.
The Class Two Ma On Shan Handicap (1,400m) sees the return of unbeaten four-year-old Conte (Joao Moreira) but the rising star has ample opposition in the form of a trio of talented three-year-olds.
Solar Patch (Zac Purton), Harmony Hero (Alberto Sanna) and Win Beauty Win (Chad Schofield) have already announced themselves as possible 2019 BMW Hong Kong Derby contenders.
Despite being a year older than his three main rivals, Conte still has scope for improvement after winning all five starts while never really being taken out of his comfort zone.
Conte is first-up for more than four months but has trialled four times since his last start and the monster gelding returns 31 pounds leaner than he was at his last start.
The Jockey Challenge looks a two-man race between Moreira and Purton as the duo continue their stirring battle for the 2017-18 jockeys’ championship.
Purton (124 wins) leads Moreira (119) by five with seven meetings remaining in the season and they ride the first and second favourites in a number of races.
If there is an upset though it could come from outsider Sanna, a jockey who built a reputation for upset results early in his tenure but now finds himself on some top chances.
If Sanna can win aboard Gold Mount in the Group Three Premier Plate (1,800m) it could put him in contention against the two big guns.
If the Italian doesn’t get off to a fast start over the first five races then he will struggle given he only has two more rides, including outsider Joyful Trinity in Group Three the Premier Cup (1,400m).
If he is within striking distance coming to the last then Harmony Hero is a great chance of rolling Conte and giving Sanna maximum points.
Still, the proliferation of favourites for Moreira and Purton makes one of them the likely winner.
Early markets indicate that Purton has a slight edge on his rival with Exultant, Famous Warrior and Pick Number One all set to start short-priced favourites, while Winner’s Way looks a great chance in the Group Three Premier Cup.
In the same race, Moreira partners Thewizardofoz, currently favourite, with Styling City a strong chance in the following race, the Class Three Amah Rock Handicap (1,200m).
It is rare for a two-year-old to step out against older opposition in Hong Kong but Stylish City gets his chance after two impressive Griffin wins.