Lucky Sweynesse firmed as the favourite for Sunday’s Group One Hong Kong Sprint (1,200m) at Sha Tin after his connections drew an inside gate and associates of three of his biggest rivals pulled barriers from which no horse has won the race.

Three-time Group One-winning speedster Wellington (gate 10), defending champion Sky Field (gate 11) and Wellington’s junior stablemate, Cordyceps Six (gate 13), will have to make Sprint history to win the HK$24 million feature.

Whereas Wellington, who was the top seed for the shortest of the four Hong Kong International Races (HKIR) features before his odds-on last-start sixth behind Lucky Sweynesse, will jump from a barrier that is yet to register even a Sprint placegetter, his recent conqueror will exit gate three.

Lucky Sweynesse’s barrier is ideal for where his trainer, Manfred Man Ka-leung, would like him to settle under the man who rode last season’s Champion Griffin to his Group Two Jockey Club Sprint (1,200m) success, Zac Purton.

“I’d like to see him sit in fifth or sixth position. I like this horse to come from behind more than lead in front,” said Man of Lucky Sweynesse, who has made all twice in his career but flew home from seventh at the top of the Sha Tin straight to win last month’s appetiser to this weekend’s main course.

Purton, for whom Lucky Sweynesse is one of his two Group One HKIR engagements – the champion rider will partner California Spangle in the Hong Kong Mile – is a fan of not only his Sprint mount but also the galloper’s veteran conditioner.

“I think Manfred’s handled him extremely well all the way through,” said Purton, whose tally of nine victories in HKIR contests is a record.

“He gave him a few runs last season. He got to the top of Class Three and struck a wet track with a big weight. It looked as if he was a bit tired.

“I mentioned to Manfred he might do well with a bit of a break. He did that. He wasn’t afraid to do that. The owner was, obviously, on board as well.

“Then he came back and progressed a bit more. Then the off season came at the right time, so he was able to have another break and develop.

“I think his preparation up until this point has been perfect. He’s been well managed. Manfred doesn’t push him too hard. He tends to keep his routine normal. He’s not panicked in any way.”

Purton will not put the finishing touches to his Sprint form analysis until Saturday night, but his inner racing nerd means he has a good grasp of Lucky Sweynesse’s rivals on Sunday afternoon.

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“I think it’s a fairly solid field. We’ve got good competition from within Hong Kong, and the Japanese have sent some solid horses as well,” Purton said.

“I’ve already got an understanding and a feeling of what the Japanese horses are like and what their racing patterns are because, being so close to us, we quite often tune into their races.

“I might quickly have a look and see where I’ve drawn, but then I won’t worry about it until the night before the races.

“I like to leave doing my form as late as I can so it’s really fresh in my mind and I can go to the races with a clear picture of how I think it’s going to be run and what I need to do.”

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