One of the stories of the current Hong Kong season has been the depth among trainer John Size’s brigade of sprinters, and with three runners in Sunday’s (8 April) G2 Sprint Cup at Sha Tin, the handler is looking to continue his winning ways in the 1200m feature.
Size has taken all bar one of the Group races over sprint trips this season, with G1 Hong Kong Sprint victor Mr Stunning leading the pack with three stakes victories. The Exceed And Excel five-year-old heads the eight-runner field on Sunday as he prepares for the G1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize (1200m) on 29 April.
That December victory means that Mr Stunning, who claimed his first Group race win in this contest last year, is saddled with an extra five pounds, carrying 128lb in a race where each of his rivals carries 123lb.
“Every ounce counts and every race in Hong Kong is a matter of handicaps, that’s what it’s all about,” Size said at Sha Tin on Friday morning (6 April). “He’s going to feel that penalty at some stage, but if he gets a nice run, the handicap will probably take care of itself.”
Mr Stunning has not raced since finishing second to stablemate D B Pin in the G1 Centenary Sprint Cup (1200m) in January, but he did trial stylishly with race-day rider Nash Rawiller in the plate on 27 March.
“There’s not much of a margin between the top three or four sprinters in Hong Kong, as the margins have shown in the sprints this season with circumstances the decider,” Size said. “That particular day (in the Centenary Sprint Cup), he happened to get beaten but he wasn’t beaten far, he was fighting out the finish and I thought it was another one of his very good efforts.
“The horse seems OK, he’s done well. He’s had a pretty tough season so far, but he’s held his form and he’s a very honest and willing racehorse. Every day he goes to the races, he puts down a good effort. His trial last time suggested everything was working.”
Dead-heating for second with Mr Stunning in the Centenary Sprint Cup was Beat The Clock, who has since recorded another G1 placing when beaten a head into second behind Beauty Generation in the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup (1400m) in late February. As in every one of his previous 13 starts, Joao Moreira will be in the saddle on Sunday.
“He’s a year younger than Mr Stunning, he’s only a four-year-old, so he’s done a good job,” Size said. “If he can get away with one of these sprints at four, it will be a very good effort and we will have something to look forward to next season.
“This seems to be a better trip for him. As you saw last start, he does run very competitively at 1400m, but on paper, the 1200m is a better distance for him. He’ll probably come into the race in the later stages and if he arrives in time, he can win.”
The third of Size’s trio is the consistent Amazing Kids, who scored his seasonal breakthrough last time out in a Class 1 over the course and distance.
“He had three months between runs before his last start, which he appreciated by the looks of it,” he said. “He’s had a much easier season than the others. He’s still got some fresh legs, he just needs a bit of luck. I think the small field suits him a lot, he hasn’t got many horses to negotiate to get through. I wouldn’t be surprised if he put his head in the finish.”
The three Size guns face opposition from last year’s runner-up Peniaphobia and his fellow veterans Not Listenin’tome, Born In China and Dundonnell. The Tony Cruz-trained Winner’s Way rounds out the octet.
The Sprint Cup is the seventh of 10 races and is scheduled to jump at 4.05pm.
Also on the Sha Tin card is the G2 Chairman’s Trophy (1600m), headlined by G1 winners Time Warp, Beauty Generation, Helene Paragon and Beauty Only, as well as the enigmatic Pakistan Star. That feature is marked as race eight and is set for 4.35pm.
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