01/19/2018 5:33PM

Nothingilikemore going longer for Hong Kong Mile

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On official ratings, Sunday’s $1,279,400 Hong Kong Classic Mile is Nothingilikemore’s race to lose.

The first leg of the 4-year-old classic series culminating in the Hong Kong Derby, the Hong Kong Mile has a full field of 12. The race, contested around one turn at Sha Tin Racecourse, is the ninth of 10 Sunday with post time scheduled for 5:10 a.m. Eastern.

With a rating of 112, 10 points higher than his nearest competitor, and with the Hong Kong Classic Mile runners all carrying 126 pounds, Nothingilikemore seems certain to head the betting for trainer John Size and jockey Joao Moreira.

The gelding exits his first loss in Hong Kong after winning his first five starts following importation from Australia. Nothingilikemore, stepping up to the Class 1 level for the first time on Dec. 10, was touched off by a head by a 5-year-old rival named Southern Legend who carried seven pounds less in the race. Moreira attributed the defeat to a poor start caused by a horse in an adjacent stall acting up just before the break. Nothingilikemore raced from the tail of the field and was spun very wide into the homestretch, his late rally falling just short.

Nothingilikemore, by Husson out of the Lonhro mare Katisam, has raced 1200 meters once and 1400 meters five times, but Moreira is on record saying the stretch Sunday to 1600 meters won’t be an issue. The race is run under level weights and Nothingilikemore, as do his 11 rivals, carries 126 pounds.

While Nothingilikemore must prove he can race effectively at a longer distance, Exultant turns back in trip from 2000 meters to 1600 – and probably won’t particularly like it. An Irish import by Teofilo who is trained by Tony Cruz, Exultant has raced three times during his Hong  Kong career, finishing fifth over 1400 meters, second over 1600, and scoring an eye-catching win last out over about 1 1/4 miles at Sha Tin while down from a pair of Class 1 handicaps to a Class 2.

Exultant, who raced as Irishcorrespondent before his name was changed in Hong Kong, finished third in the Irish 2000 Guineas over about one mile, but seems almost certain to have a better chance in the next two longer legs of the 4-year-old classic series.

Size has a second runner, Time to Celebrate, who enters on a two-race win streak but even after a five-point ratings rise following a recent Class 2 win he is pegged at 95, well below his favored stablemate. Cruz, too, has a second in the race, Dragon Lips, who probably lacks Exultant’s inherent quality but while better suiting Sunday’s distance.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong training icon John Moore starts four of the 12 entrants in Ruthven (rated 94), Rivet (92), Good Standing (90), and Grand Chancellor (78), but none are obvious contenders and are lightly raced in Hong Kong with their best form likely to come with more experience and distance.