Trainer Tony Cruz will bypass the Classic Mile with his stayer Helene Leadingstar as he plots an alternative course to the BMW Hong Kong Derby in March.
The Australian Group One winner will instead step up in trip on Sunday when he tackles the Class Two New Street Handicap (1,800m) as Cruz looks for more ground after not living up to his lofty reputation over 1,600m in his two previous Hong Kong starts.
As a winner of last year’s Group One South Australian Derby over 2,500m, Cruz said his horse wouldn’t stand a chance over the shorter trip in Hong Kong.
“He needs longer, we will skip the mile and go straight to the 1,800m [Classic Cup] before the Derby,” Cruz said.
“He is a good horse, and there is no problem with his rating, he just needs longer than a mile.”
Jockey Karis Teetan retains the ride after steering the horse in his previous two starts.
The duo will be forced to do it the hard way also after drawing barrier eight in the 10-strong field.
Fellow Australian import Nicconi Express will be the horse to beat, with the John Size-trained gelding comfortably winning in Class Three company on New Year’s Day.
While he steps up in grade here, he carries just 119 pounds with Joao Moreira riding.
But missing the Classic Mile does not mean the end of a horse’s chance in the Derby.
Last year’s winner Ping Hai Star bypassed both the Classic Mile (1,600m) and Classic Cup (1,800m) before going on to win the Derby, while other recent winners Luger (2015), Akeed Mofeed (2013) and Ambitious Dragon (2011) missed one of the traditional lead-up races.
A number of other four-year-old series hopefuls will step out this weekend as they look to work their way into the lucrative event via different pathways.
Imported out of Queensland, Nicconi Express was undefeated in his only two starts before coming to Hong Kong with a rating of 72.
Along with Nicconi Express, the likes of Classic Beauty, Ho Ho Khan, King Of Hearts, Taking Aim, Mission Tycoon, Glorious Spectrum and Waikuku will all have starts on Sunday while carrying nominations to the HK$18 million BMW Hong Kong Derby.
Waikuku and Glorious Spectrum both impressed last start over 1,400m, running strongly in their second Hong Kong start, and will face off again in the Class Two Po Yan Handicap (1,400m).
Trainer Frankie Lor Fu-chuen has previously indicated that Glorious Spectrum will not be included in his four-pronged attack on the four-year-old series, however a strong performance on Sunday could see his rating jump to around 90, which would guarantee him a run.
Formerly known as Met Spectrum in Italy, Glorious Spectrum won three from five starts in Europe as a two-year-old and three-year-old, along with a Group Three placing.
Waikuku joined champion trainer Size after just two starts in Ireland, where he won over 1,400m as a three-year old.
While there are plenty of four-year-olds in the race with higher aspirations, they will first have to overcome a host of seasoned horses.
Tony Millard’s World Record will line up from barrier one after reeling off two impressive last-to-first wins this season under jockey Grant van Niekerk.
With Van Niekerk riding Dennis Yip Chor-hong’s first starter Won Won Too, Teetan has picked up the ride on World Record.