Ex-British runner Helene Mascot bids to become only the second horse to complete the Hong Kong Derby and Queen Elizabeth II Cup double at Sha Tin on Sunday.
The four-year-old, formerly known as Salford Mill, won the Listed Newmarket Stakes for David Elsworth last year before switching to the care of Tony Cruz in Hong Kong.
Helene Mascot tuned up for the Audemars Piguet-sponsored feature with an 800-metre spin on the all-weather track on Thursday and Cruz is anticipating further improvement from his runner.
“I was very happy going into the Derby, and we won that, and I still don’t believe we’ve got to the bottom of this horse. He’s definitely got more to give,” said Cruz.
“When he came off the track (on Thursday) he looked a ball of muscle. I think he’s put on weight since the Derby and that’s the best possible sign the horse is doing well.
“There is something special about this horse. He had a foot problem leading up to the Derby Trial, he missed work and I knew he wasn’t 100%. But he still ran second in that race, which was a tremendous effort.
“Now his feet are completely fixed thanks to our vet and the Jockey Club farriers. He has a lovely fluent action that’s continued to get better.”
Vengeance Of Rain, winner of last year’s Dubai Sheema Classic, completed the Derby/QEII double in 2005.
Viva Pataca, runner up in this year’s Sheema Classic, is likely to start a warm favourite but he will have to overcome an unfavourable draw after being allotted stall 10 in an 11-strong field.
Japanese runner Matsurida Gogh is likely to have plenty of use made of him to try to gain an early initiative against Viva Pataca, who will be aiming to repeat his victory of last year in the 10-furlong heat.
Trainer Sakae Kunieda, whose charge will break from stall six, said: “I wanted anything between three and seven, so that is fine.”
Jackpot Delight, runner-up behind Helene Mascot last time, misses the race after being found to be lame.
In the supporting Group One Champions Mile, favourite Good Ba Ba drew stall four to the delight of trainer Andreas Schutz and jockey Olivier Doleuze.