Rematches between some of the better horses in training are probably more common in Hong Kong than in any other racing jurisdiction and Sha Tin hosts a particularly intriguing one on Sunday.
The Class Two Dendrobium Handicap (1,800m) may have attracted only six runners but four of them took each other on over 2,000m at the same course just two weeks ago.
On that occasion just a length and quarter separated the winner Looking Great from the next three home and all of those who made the frame will be holding high hopes of reversing the form.
Looking Great has been raised five rating points for that victory but the Frankie Lor Fu-chuen runner will carry five pounds less – 113 pounds – in this race thanks to the contest’s extended ratings band, being open to horses rated 105-80.
Often labelled the “Collection Stakes”, this Class Two contest had its ratings band changed to 105-80 when former perennial champion trainer John Moore famously persuaded the Hong Kong Jockey Club to change the conditions so that Collection would be eligible to have a Hong Kong Derby prep run in 2009.
Collection duly hosed up and was sent off long odds-on favourite for his Derby win a fortnight later.
There are no four-year-olds on the Derby trail taking in the race this year so many may be drawn to Charity Go, who finished third behind Looking Great on his last start.
Charity Go has never managed to get his head in front in eight starts over 2,000m but has graced the winner’s enclosure twice after saluting over 1,800m, with his most recent victory over that distance coming just two starts ago.
Danny Shum Chap-shing’s runner was forced to come from last in that most recent run against Looking Great and was the only horse who did not get a clear run in the straight, being forced to switch around multiple rivals before staying on strongly late. He may well be fancied to get closer this time.
Charity Go finished one place behind Enjoying, who secured the runner-up spot last time, and Chris So Wai-yin will be hoping his six-year-old can finally get his head in front in Hong Kong on his 20th start in the city.
Wildly inconsistent, Enjoying has three placings and two complete blowouts in his last five starts over 1,800m and 2,000m so it will take a brave bettor to pile the cash on him.
Berlin Tango is another still to salute in Hong Kong and finished fourth behind Looking Great on his most recent start. He’s been sent off at $5.1 or shorter on three occasions this season, but has never finished better than third in 14 Hong Kong starts.
So if Looking Great is to be beaten on Sunday, it may be by a runner who is taking advantage of the race conditions.
Butterfield is rated 105 and has raced at Class One level or above in all 11 starts since April last year.
The six-year-old won the Group Three Queen Mother Memorial Cup (2,400m) last season and
finished second in the Group Three Centenary Vase (1,800m) over this trip just two starts ago.
He brings a decent level of form for the others to aim at and may just have too much class for them.
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