Exultant will bid for a second successive win in Sunday’s Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup at Sha Tin.
The ex-Irish runner finished second in the Group One feature in 2018, but went one place better last year when beating Rise High by a length and a quarter.
The Teofilo gelding has won three of his starts this term, most recently holding Furore by three-quarters of a length in last month’s QEII Cup.
Trainer Tony Cruz said: “He’s a real turf galloper, he loves the mile and a half.
“The first year he ran in it, he was only a four-year-old, but last year you could see he was stronger, more mature, and he was easily the best horse.
“He’s in good form again this season, he’s the champion stayer, so I can see him winning it again.”
While Cruz has full faith in Exultant, who will be ridden by title-chasing jockey Zac Purton, any rain would be a concern for the handler.
He added: “I don’t want a downpour, that’s my concern. As long as the track is good to firm, as normal, Exultant should win this race again. But I want that normal track!”
Cruz also fields Time Warp, who beat Exultant in the Hong Kong Gold Cup in March, and Furore as he chases a seventh win in the race in the last eight years.
John Moore, who is returning to Australia at the end of the campaign, trains the remaining four of the seven-runner field, with Chefano, Savvy Nine and Helene Charisma renewing rivalries after filling the first three places in the Queen Mother Memorial Cup last time.
Moore believes ex-French runners Savvy Nine and Helene Charisma, who won the Group One Grand Prix de Paris when racing as Mont Ormel, will relish any cut in the ground.
He said: “If the pace is genuine, I think Savvy Nine and Helene Charisma would probably be my stable picks and Chefano should like the cut in the ground too.
“Helene Charisma will definitely enjoy it and Savvy Nine, I can’t see any reason why he won’t enjoy it – they’ll think they’re back at Longchamp or something!
“If the favourite doesn’t come with his ‘A Game’ at the weekend, we come right there with all guns blazing. It would be great to depart Hong Kong on a Group One win and as far as I’m concerned, we have a great chance of doing that.”
Purton’s title rival Joao Moreira partnered Savvy Nine to place second behind Chefano and he feels further rain would benefit his mount.
He said: “I think this kind of surface affects probably 65 to 70 per cent of the horses negatively and he’s one of the other 30 or 35 per cent that just gets better on it.
“He went 2400 metres (12 furlongs) last time so I’m not worried about the distance – I think he was needing the run last time and now he should be right there.
“Exultant’s the horse to beat, there’s no doubt about that, but I have to keep the faith and I think my horse has done nothing wrong.”