Sunday’s HKG2 Oriental Watch Sha Tin Trophy (Handicap) has drawn a cast worthy of its feature status. No fewer than five individual international Group 1winners will take their places in the mile test, alongside a clutch of established elite level contenders, but for many racing fans the prime attraction will be the as-yet-untapped five-year-old Contentment.
John Size’s charge has won seven of his 10 Hong Kong starts since debuting at Sha Tin 11 months ago. The three glitches on the Hussonet gelding’s record include a seventh in last season’s HKG1 Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m) and ninth in the HKG1 Hong Kong Derby (2000m) but those reversals, so early in his development, are easily forgiven; the manner of his first-up triumph earlier this month confirmed the impression that Contentment could be a G1 horse on the cusp.
“It’s just a matter of time until he starts to go out and compete in those big races, and he may be winning. I think he does have that ability, it’s just a matter of time,” was jockey Joao Moreira’s assessment.
Contentment saw off several of Sunday’s re-opposing rivals in winning the HKG3 Celebration Cup (Handicap) over 1400m on 1 October. The chestnut shouldered a feather 115lb on that occasion as he quickened eye-catchingly down the stretch before easing across the line a half-length to the good.
Moreira’s mount has had his rating increased seven points for that success and on Sunday he will carry 120lb, which represents a 5lb turnaround in the weights with runner-up and fellow G1 aspirant Giant Treasure, who will carry 116lb on Sunday. And of course those who finished farther behind that day, the likes of two-time G1 Singapore Airlines International Cup victor Dan Excel (131lb), Beauty Flame (125lb), Dominant (126lb), Rewarding Hero (126lb) and Harbour Master (123lb), can be expected to have progressed for their first-up efforts. But Moreira can say the same.
“I thought Contentment was a little bit under-done last time, which is a good sign because he won the race and that shows his ability. I think he’s going to be 100 per cent fit this time, which will make it very tough for the others. I respect every other horse in the race, they are very good horses, but I have faith in this horse and I think he can win.”
The exciting feature has also attracted G1 winner Blazing Speed (133lb), former Horse of the Year and last year’s winner Military Attack (133lb), and last season’s G1 Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup (2400m) hero Helene Super Star (126lb).
“Contentment is still getting a bit of weight from the top horses so that will help him out and he has every chance to win the race,” said Moreira. “Some of the higher-weighted horses would be better over longer distances, so if there is a chance to beat them the time is now because there are a few things going in Contentment’s favour in this race.”
Another of those favourable factors is a new maturity. Last term it was usual to see Contentment travel prominently in his races but in his latest start Moreira settled the Size runner fourth, some two and a half lengths back from the pace.
“He doesn’t need to be ridden forward,” said Moreira. “Last season he was ridden like that because he was quite keen and strong but this season, as you could see in his first run, he was nice and relaxed throughout the race. He wasn’t fighting for the lead. He was probably two and half lengths behind the horse in front of him, not close to the heels showing off. This season he knows more of what horseracing is about.
“John Size will have his own thoughts on the horse, and he’s the one who knows the horse best, but I think the mile might be his best trip - but he’s versatile. He has won over 1800m before and even 1400m and that versatility means his trainer could have options to go here or there or whatever race he wants.”
Contentment may well be a star in the making but up to now he is a local G3 winner attempting to climb the next rung on the ladder, and he is not the only notable rising star on the Oriental Watch Sha Tin Trophy bill. The Tony Cruz-trained Beauty Only (119lb), triumphant in last season’s HKG1 Hong Kong Classic Mile, also heads into the contest off the back of a first-up win that offered connections the hope of further big-race success this term.
With talented gallopers like Helene Happy Star (123lb), Pleasure Gains (120lb) and Rainbow Chic (117lb) also in the 14-strong field, this year’s Oriental Watch Sha Tin Trophy promises to be another cracker.
Sunday’s 10-race card commences at 1pm and also features the HKG2 Premier Bowl (Handicap), a 1200m contest that has attracted 14 more of Hong Kong’s most talented gallopers, among them Horse of the Year Able Friend, Champion Sprinter Aerovelocity, fellow international G1 heroes Amber Sky and Lucky Nine, the top-class local G1 victors Gold-Fun and Peniaphobia, and the up-and-coming Not Listenin’tome.