There were question marks over his speed when Tourbillon Diamond was imported from Australia but those queries turned out to be unfounded and now he is looking to add his name to the Classic Mile honour roll.
Formerly known as Eric The Eel, the four-year-old had a cult following more for his catchy name rather than his grinding running style which saw him perform best over 2,400m before being sold to Hong Kong.
Between his A$7,000 (HK$42,000) yearling price tag and his unfashionable running style, many expected “Eric” to sink before he managed to swim in the pressure-cooker environment which has brought many more highly credentialed gallopers undone, but Danny Shum Chap-shing may have proved the doubters wrong yet again.
Tourbillon Diamond shocked many when he ran a barnstorming third at $71 on debut over 1,400m in Class Two, but then confirmed it was no fluke when he won next time out when stepping up to 1,600m.
Now heading into Sunday’s HK$12 million feature, the four-year-old shapes as one of the major players in a race he was not expected to have a say in.
Jockey Alexis Badel admits he was surprised at Tourbillion Diamond’s new-found speed after riding him in his first-up assignment in November.
“I must say he surprised me quite a bit because you don’t feel like he is a slow horse at all, he has good early speed out of the gates,” he said. “He never feels slow at any moment.”
The Frenchman takes the reins again for Sunday’s contest after Vincent Ho Chak-yiu sided with Frankie Lor Fu-chuen’s Healthy Happy following his last-start win.
“The form has been pretty good and the horse feels good,” Badel said.
“I think [he is ready to go]. It is never easy to come here in Class Two at 1,400m and run third like he did first-up.
“After that, he proved how quickly he had adapted to the Hong Kong, which was good. I think [he is capable over shorter trips].”
In a race which has no clear pace element, Badel has been dealt a tricky hand with barrier 11 set to have him posted wide.
The Frenchman admits the draw put a dampener on his confidence, but does not believe it is insurmountable.
“Of course we have a little bit of work to do from that draw, it is not easy,” he said.
“It is very important, these races are what you want as a jockey, it’s why you come here and it’s what you’re looking for.
“It would mean a lot to me to win a big race this season.”