01/26/2007 1:00AM

Bullish Luck tries to turn it around


Most of Hong Kong's big guns will line up at Sha Tin on Sunday for the $1 million Stewards Cup, a Group 1 mile that serves as the first leg of the Hong Kong Triple Crown for older horses.

Bullish Luck is the highest-rated horse in the 12-strong field. His 120 World Thoroughbred Racehorse Rating made him the highest-ranked Hong Kong-trained performer of 2006. But Bullish Luck, the winner of Sha Tin's Group 1 Champions Mile and Tokyo's Grade 1 Yasuda Kinen last spring, has been off form of late, finishing only fourth in the Hong Kong Mile in December and ninth, beaten 5 1/4 lengths, in the Group 3 Chinese Challenge Cup on New Year's Day when giving weight all around.

Vengeance of Rain, Hong Kong's best horse during the 2005-06 season, was third to Pride in the Hong Kong Cup on Dec. 11, and while he has scored four Group 1 victories at Sha Tin, they have all come going at least 1 1/4 miles.

The Duke may be the answer in a tight fit. The Hong Kong Mile winner had five of his Stewards Cup rivals behind him that day, nipping runner-up Armada by a head. Viva Pataca, fourth in Pride's Hong Kong Cup, could be the selection's biggest threat as he drops back to a mile with French champion Christophe Soumillon in for the ride.

The Group 1, $1 million Hong Kong Classic Mile, restricted to 4-year-olds headed to the Hong Kong Derby on March 18, adds luster to the 10-race, $2.7 million card. Only ninth in the Hong Kong Mile, Floral Pegasus bounced back to take the Group 3 Chinese Challenge Cup on Jan. 1, but he faces a stiff challenge from Down Town, who gets a two-pound break in the weights after his nose second to Floral Pegasus that day.