The quest for Hong Kong’s Triple Crown recommences with the HK$8m Stewards’ Cup (Gr.1-1600m) at Sha Tin this Sunday and what a race we have in store.
The best current form rests with The Duke and Dave’s Best, second and third behind Hat Trick, the excellent Japanese winner of the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Mile last month.
The Duke has provided many of the highlights of Caspar Fownes' brief but highflying training career and he feels that a breakthrough Gr.1 success may eventually come 4.45pm on Sunday.
'He has been working really well since the Mile. To be honest, I think he has managed to come out of that race as well as any before - his bodyweight is the same now as it was when he threw in that career best from a wide draw,' Fownes observed, 'and he has beaten all these horses before so there's no real reason why he can't do it again.'
Tony Cruz fields no less than five of the 14-runner field and our Champion Miler, Bullish Luck, with whom Cruz won this race in 2005, is reunited with Felix Coetzee for the first time in almost a year. The trainer also sends out Russian Pearl, Perfect Partner, Helene Pillaging and Fokine.
John Moore pitches three into battle in the form of 2004 winner Super Kid along with Tiber and Best Gift, the latter preferred by jockey Douglas Whyte over High Intelligent, trained by John Size.
And it's not only Whyte who sides Best Gift.
'Of my three Best Gift is the one I prefer,' said Moore.
'People might think that coming back from 2400m to 1600m might make a horse more dour, but, believe me, this horse is fitter now than when he raced in the Vase. And he has won a Group race over this distance already. He is fresh and very well,' he added.
Sweeping the three legs of the Triple Crown is a virtually impossible task; the great River Verdon remains the only horse to achieve it in 1993/94.
River Verdon also won two of the series' three legs in 1991/92 and 1992/93. Makarpura Star (1994/95) and Indigenous (1997/98) came close to the elusive prize with two wins out of three, as did Super Kid in 2003/04, adding the Hong Kong Champions & Chater Cup to his win in this event.
The winner of all three Triple Crown legs nets a HK$5m bonus while HK$2m goes to the winner of any two legs.
The next leg of the Triple Crown is the Hong Kong Gold Cup on February 26.