With a light weight and an ability to sit close in the run and overcome a possible race tempo trap, Danny Shum Chap-shing's Mr Gnocchi can confirm the class of this season's four-year-old crop by beating a small field in the Group Three Premier Plate (1,800m) at Sha Tin.

While the true test of strength for the 2014 Hong Kong Derby will come in around a month's time when the race's pair of superstars in waiting, Designs On Rome and Able Friend - who finished one-two - step out against all-comers, the performance of fourth-placegetter Mr Gnocchi provides the first litmus test two weeks after the classic.

Mr Gnocchi was beaten more than six lengths by Designs On Rome in the Derby, but he endured a tough run - pushing forward from gate 12, he sat wide for much of what was a solidly run 2,000m.

Shum and astute owner Dr Gene Tsoi Wai-wang admit 2,000m is the end limit for their gelding distance-wise, so the distance of 1,800m seems perfect - even if a 14-day back-up coming back in trip is not.

Races over the distance often produce a pace puzzle for those working out speed maps, but with only six horses engaged and no clear leader, Sunday's contest poses even more of a dilemma for form analysts - and for jockeys.

With 113 pounds Keith Yeung Ming-lun can afford to be adventurous on Mr Gnocchi - who may even end up leader by default, with no other obvious candidate to take up the running.

If it descends to a walk, Neil Callan might try to emulate Joao Moreira's spectacular mid-race move on Same World from three starts ago - but those daring tactics are much easier to pull off at Happy Valley than Sha Tin. As for Zaidan, first-up after five months, he will probably be ridden for cover

The other two on the limit weight - Ashkiyr (Derek Leung Ka-chun) and Bubble Chic (Karis Teetan) - are dangers, with the latter also a horse that likes to sit handy.

Carrying the same weight, Ashkiyr gave Akeed Mofeed all he could handle two starts back over the course and distance before being outclassed in the Citibank Hong Kong Gold Cup. He is much better suited here.

Lurking and capable of blowing them all away will be the class horse of the race - Caspar Fownes-trained Packing Whiz (Brett Prebble).

The six-year-old is capable of a final 400m burst than none of his rivals can match, even if they are getting 20 pounds off him, and he will be better stepping back up to 1,800m after a run at 1,400m. (www.racing.scmp.com)