Brilliant jockey Joao Moreira will have learned some lessons from the Classic Cup last month and that may enable Able Friend to turn the tables on his stablemate Designs On Rome in the $16 million BMW Hong Kong Derby (2,000m) today at Sha Tin, reports Racing Post HK.

The race shapes well and truly as a classic contest between the John Moore-trained pair, with the biggest danger to Able Friend and Designs On Rome (Tommy Berry) probably not any rival but whether the jockeys become absorbed in their own head to head battle and forget the other 12 runners. These kinds of apparent match races are famous the world over for upset results for just that reason.

Punters made Able Friend odds-on to beat Designs On Rome in the 1,800m lead-up but will switch to make Designs On Rome odds-on today over an extra 200m, as he tries to be only the second Classic Cup winner to also win the Derby.

The question in many Hong Kong Derbies is not whether a horse can stay, but whether that will be required.

In many eyes, having a designated leader in Bullish Boy, drawn in gate eleven, ensures a solid tempo but the presence of an obvious frontrunner can often have the opposite effect and slow the pace. Other forward runners like Bullish Boy's stablemate, Beauty Flame, Tableaux, Flame Hero or Dr Good Habit are also more likely to want to sit behind an obvious leader than commit themselves and risk being gassed by a rival with little chance of winning. That means the pace smooths out earlier than it might otherwise, the field bunches and the staying contest doesn't eventuate.

That has been the case in most recent Derbies, and horses sweeping around from the 600m have won them - the same kind of pattern Berry established on Designs On Rome in the Classic Cup. He came from directly off Able Friend's back to flush him out, but probably won't be in that perfect spot again today, and may give Able Friend more of a start, at least mid-race.

It might have suited Moreira to be stalking Designs On Rome, knowing that Able Friend will beat the other horse for acceleration over 200m though the draw now makes that seem unlikely. But, to win, the Magic Man will have to use that acceleration differently and that knowledge seemed to be contained in Moreira's post-race remarks last time that the Derby would be different.

There are two turns this time and Able Friend's superior positional ability and superior foot speed when he lets down are both better suited on that kind of circuit - as long as it doesn't come down to a serious staying test.