SINGAPORE - The heart says Singapore Derby-Queen Elizabeth II Cup hero Top Knight is the horse to beat in Saturday's (Nov 21) $1 million Group 1 Singapore Gold Cup, but the head says otherwise.
After all, tradition is against the topweight winning Singapore's premier classic.
More often than not, the honours have gone to lightweights, because the handicap conditions make the race more intriguing. Eight of the last 10 winners carried 53kg and below.
The last topweight to win was Smart Bet with 59kg in 2002.
So, can Top Knight break the jinx with 57kg as the highest-rated contender in the capacity field of 16?
I reckon he can.
He is the stayer of the moment and is worthy to be named a reserve in next month's prestigious International Group 1 Hong Kong Mile at Sha Tin.
If you have seen the way he rattled home from way back to capture the $400,000 Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup in his last start on Oct 31, you will be vouching for the Falcon Racing No. 7 Stable-owned galloper on Saturday.
He made his opposition look like they were standing still. The extra 200m will suit him to a T.
But, unlike set-weight or weight-for-age events, he will have to concede weight all round in the Gold Cup.
And, as they say in racing, weight can stop a train.
While his class may pull him through, I am opting for his up-and-coming stablemate Big Hearted, who should have a big say as one of the joint bottomweights carrying just 50kg.
Also prepared by leading trainer Michael Clements, Big Hearted won on QE II Cup day over the same 1,800m trip.
He carried 54.5kg to zoom home in 1min 48.72sec, compared to Top Knight's 1min 52.33sec, albeit on a wetter track a few races later.
He qualified with the minimum 50kg. The 7kg can make a lot of difference in a handicap race over the 2,000m trip.
Granted, it is a big jump from Class 3 to Cup level, but Big Hearted is a horse going places. His latest win was his fifth in 11 starts.
The horse he beat, Ocean Crossing, gets in with only 51kg, a big 8kg reprieve from his last outing. He is another lively lightweight chance.
His trainer, Lee Freedman, has three other top candidates - last year's Gold Cup winner Mr Clint (55.5kg), last year's Derby winner Sun Marshal (55kg) and Minister (54.5kg).
Minister was runner-up in the QE II Cup , while Mr Clint finished a fantastic third.
Trainer Shane Baertschiger's Aramaayo is another top contender on his Kranji Mile-Raffles Cup successes, but will also be giving some weight with 56kg on his back. While classy as well, he needs a good track to perform his best.
If Top Knight wins the Gold Cup, he will most likely be voted Horse of the Year.
But will his class or tradition prevail tomorrow? Let us see.