VIVA Pataca heads a powerful deputation from the John Moore stable in his bid to win a third consecutive Cathay Pacific International Cup Trial (HKGr.2-2000m) on Sunday.

This is a race designed to shed plenty of light on where the four established Gr.1 performers in the field – Viva Pataca, Thumbs Up, Collection and Packing Winner – are at in relation to their respective targets in the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong International Races on 13 December.

It will also reveal whether international pretenders such as Mr Medici, Eyshal, Young Elite et al are capable of shaking up the world’s best four weeks hence.

It’s pretty evident that Viva Pataca sets the highest standard for this critical trial and it seems the decision for Moore’s retained jockey, Darren Beadman, to ride the reigning Horse of the Year over last term’s Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong Derby winner, Collection, was straightforward.

“Both Darren and I believe that Viva Pataca stands a better chance in the Cup Trial due to the fact that ‘Viva’ has come to hand much quicker this time in than Collection,” Moore said.

“Viva Pataca just worked this morning [Friday] and he was full of himself. I couldn’t speak more highly of his work there. There is only a tiny percentage more improvement to come from him and that we will see that when he runs in the Vase next month.”

Moore began the season believing Collection’s international prep would be in the Cathay Pacific International Mile Trial a week on Sunday but changed his mind after the Derby hero ran fifth on his seasonal bow behind rank outsider Packing Winner in the Mission Hills Sha Tin Trophy.

“We felt the best way to get mileage into Collection’s legs for the Cup next month would be to run him over the 2000m on Sunday. Having said that, on Tuesday his work was a little bit too slick, it was a seriously searching gallop and I hope it didn’t take too much out of him.”

That most inexact of sciences, the devising of speed maps, predicts Danesis and Iron Fist up on the pace alongside Packing Winner who made all in last month’s HKGr.3 over a mile. But Moore might also have a hand in how the pace is forced.

“That’s the key to the race, the pace,” he continued.

“If Packing Winner is allowed to dictate like he did last time we will have to run the final 400m in almost impossible fractions to catch him. I would like to think that my other runner, Eyshal, can be up on the speed, too. He missed the start last time so hopefully he can be up there this time around,” the trainer added of the horse which ran a close third to Viva Pataca at level weights in the Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup last year.

Meanwhile, if ever a horse has lived up to his name in terms of pre-race preparation it would be Thumbs Up who, by all accounts, limbered up for his trial with a terrific turf gallop on Thursday morning.

Leading jockey Brett Prebble described as “dangerous” the hit-out, adding: “I told [trainer] Danny Shum afterwards to wrap the horse up in cotton wool. He’s flying.”

Elsewhere, Young Elite will command his share of attention, not least from his legion of owners and supporters in the HKJC Racing Club.

In theory, this exciting five-year-old is ‘wrong’ at the weights with some of his more established rivals but, equally, he is more progressive than most and Zac Purton expects he can tuck in just behind the speed from barrier two.

“He is in great form and a great ride to have. He really came well in that barrier trial last week and hopefully he can show he is up to competing with the best at set weights,” Purton said.

And let’s not forget trainer Peter Ho who prepared a stable quinella thanks to Packing Winner’s defeat of the ever-reliable Mr Medici from Thumbs Up, Viva Pataca and Collection on 25 October.

Brett Doyle said of Packing Winner: “Obviously he stays well so it doesn’t really matter if he can’t lead this time. I haven’t been on him since but Peter tells me he’s in as good if not better form this time so we’d have to be hopeful again.”

Alex Lai, finally, vouched for the final trackwork of Mr Medici and concluded: “He’s so honest and he’s always in the first four. Why not again this time?”