A date with Hong Kong’s one true measuring stick in Golden Sixty awaits for John Size-trained pair Lucky Express and Excellent Proposal but first they get the chance to tune up the friendlier surrounds of Sunday’s Class One Chevalier Cup (1,600m) at Sha Tin.
The gallopers will also face the likes of raiders Danon Kingly and Mother Earth in a hot Group One Hong Kong Mile on December 12 and, while Dark Dream and Fast Most Furious where scratched from their international day assignments following last year’s Chevalier Cup, Size says it is full steam ahead for his duo.
“They’re in the race and I’ve got no intention of taking them out, so as long as they run well and I’m happy with them I think they’ll both start,” said the veteran handler.
Both five-year-olds had their first-up assignments in the Class One Panasonic Cup (1,400m) a fortnight ago, with Lucky Express getting all the favours to win from gate one and Excellent Proposal running on solidly for fifth from gate 11.
“[Lucky Express] ran probably as well as you could expect and he hasn’t taken any harm from that, he’s gone home and done well and he seems to be in pretty good shape, so he’ll run a good race again,” Size said.
“Certainly that’s his best start so I suppose he is developing and he’s gone on with the job. It’s a long process, the improvement of a horse when they come to Hong Kong.
“He’s been a little but unlucky on the racetrack but he’s certainly made improvement all the time in the last 12 months.
“[Excellent Proposal’s effort] seems like a sound run, he had no advantage in the race the way it was run but he seemed to make a good run and he sustained it, so I think coming up to the 1,600m he might go a little bit better.”
Excellent Proposal had a big four-year-old season, winning three races on the trot to kick things off before going on to win the Classic Mile – defeating Lucky Express by three-quarters of a length – and finishing fourth in both the Classic Cup and Hong Kong Derby.
Joao Moreira was in the saddle for the son of Exceed And Excel’s first-up run, as well as the first three wins of his Hong Kong career, and is hopeful he can take another step this weekend.
“He’s done very well in the past and he can wind up some more, but he definitely needs to improve a little bit more to be competitive against the best horses at the international races in December,” the Brazilian said.
Lucky Express was around the mark last season but failed to reach the heights of Excellent Proposal, but Zac Purton – who was aboard for his victory earlier this month – thinks he can springboard off a busy four-year-old campaign.
“He’s a relatively lightly raced horse, he had his four-year-old campaign geared towards the Derby and now he seems to have come back as a little bit more of a mature horse and settled into the environment,” the jockey said.
“These horses can quite often improve a lot from their four- to five-year-old years, he ran well first-up and he gets his chance to go and do it again up to the mile.”
Excellent Proposal jumps from gate two and Lucky Express has drawn seven, while they will be joined in the 12-horse field by stablemate Silver Express, who begins from barrier one under Vagner Borges.