Hugh Bowman has high Hong Kong Gold Cup hopes for Straight Arron

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Hugh Bowman hopes Straight Arron can continue an upward career trajectory with victory in the HK$13 million Group 1 Hong Kong (2000m) at Sha Tin on Sunday.

Third in the G3 Centenary Vase Handicap (1800m) under 135lb on 4 February, Straight Arron faces the elite of Hong Kong's middle-distance ranks this weekend with five-time Group 1 winner and Hong Kong Derby (2000m) and Group 1 Stewards' Cup victor headlining the entries.

Bowman is optimistic Straight Arron can build on his impressive fourth in the Group 1 (2000m) behind Romantic Warrior on December 10, when he was beaten only three-quarters of a length.

“I think Straight Arron proved on international day that he's not far behind these horses and I think he's going well and I think he's a genuine top-three chance and we'll see how he goes,” Bowman said.

“I was really happy with his last run (in the Centenary Vase). He had the 135 (pounds) and history will tell you that if they run well with that weight, it's a very good sign albeit against horses not of the same calibre that he will meet this weekend.

“We're not oblivious to the fact that he's taking on Romantic Warrior, who I rode myself in trackwork (, February 20) and he's going very well, but it is what it is – my horse is not far behind him.”

Bowman, 43, resumes from suspension eager to build on the 35 wins he has accumulated in a season punctuated by injuries and suspensions.

“It's good to be back. It's been a bit of a frustrating period for me. I've had the ball bounce against me a little bit with a couple of injuries but I've also made my own mistakes so that's something I really want to focus on and rectify and settle back into the season with some consistency,” the Australian said.

With five Hong Kong Group 1s among his 105 elite victories world-wide, Bowman previously won the Hong Kong Gold Cup on for in 2017.

Apart from five-time Group 1 winner Romantic Warrior, fellow Hong Kong Derby winner Voyage Bubble and Straight Arron, entry for this Sunday's feature also includes Beauty Joy, , Encountered, Five G Patch, , Money Catcher, Senor Toba and Sword Point.

Andrea Atzeni, who won Centenary Vase on Nimble Nimbus, will search for his first Hong Kong Group 1 score aboard 's consistent charge.

“He's a Group 3 winner the last day, obviously carrying quite a low weight (115lb) and he's meeting top-class horses here at level weights (126lb), so we're under no illusions that we're up against it,” the Sardinian said.

“But hopefully he's the sort of horse that if the gets a good draw, we should be able to give him a chance like we did on the last day and he can finish off quite nicely – I can see him running a big race.”

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