Size worth weight in gold
John Size and Chiu Chow Brother continued their climb up the mountain together at Sha Tin yesterday, but the air is starting to get thin for at least one of them. Once again, Chiu Chow Brother provided the vehicle for Steven King to show his skills, arriving in the final few bounds to grab Rebel Leader and take the second division of the feature Fakei Cup.
The win wrapped up a double for King, who has been in great form lately and earlier won on Clever Citation, and the cup gave all concerned the third win on the trot with Chiu Chow Brother.
'I really thought he was at his top after he won the other day and went up another 10 pounds in the handicap,' King said. 'But John - I call him Golden Hands - has just handled this horse so well, he was able to make another step up today. Really, it has been a fantastic training performance.'
Where Chiu Chow Brother goes from here is the next question. He was raised 22 pounds for his first two wins in Size's 'golden' hands and will doubtless go up again for yesterday's victory but he could not have done more.
'I appreciate that it is difficult to win three in a row in Hong Kong, so I would have to agree that this horse has done a great job,' Size said. 'Today he was three weeks without a race but he still stepped up to 1,600m and won.
'I've no special plan for him and I don't know whether he will get a lot further than 1,600m but I am sure there will be a suitable race. Once again it was a nice ride by Steven and the horse has been a bit lucky that all the three races he has won, actually all the races he has run in for me, have been run at a good tempo which suits him.'
Rebel Leader (Tony Culhane) has been putting his heart into recent races without winning but finally looked to have a race in his keeping yesterday until Chiu Chow Brother arrived.
'Well, I think Steven owes me dinner after that - I thought I was home,' said a rueful Culhane. Rebel Leader's trainer, Geoff Lane, was more upbeat. 'I'm not disappointed, he is a real trier, he beat the rest easily and keeps earning good stake money.'
The win by Chiu Chow Brother keeps Size's strike rate above 25 per cent for the season after 26 runners, but the trainer's day was not perfect by any means. Dancing Surpass appeared badly held up in race four before finishing out of the money and Flying Champion fell in his box while being saddled for the third race and was withdrawn.
'It was nothing serious but he had banged his head when it happened and I really didn't think he was in the right frame of mind to be racing after that,' Size said.
While Chiu Chow Brother must be coming to the peak of his talents now, Size indicated the fun might not have stopped yet for owner Charlie Lam Leung-seng.
'I have another English imported horse called Sensible Mind who is part-owned by him,' Size said. 'He was a winner in the UK at 1,400m and he has only had a couple of gallops for me but he looks like he might be OK.'
Another Australian trainer, David Hayes, edged two wins clear of Francis Lui Kin-wai at the top of the trainers' table after well-backed Orlando Flyer won the Philadelphia Handicap, but stewards quickly inquired into the four-year-old's sharp improvement on lacklustre recent efforts.
'I think anyone who follows the trackwork would see that I have changed Orlando Flyer's work patterns lately and he looked to be going a bit better,' Hayes explained to the media.
'I agree, he wasn't doing much in his races - that's why I changed his work. But I can't really credit the win only to the training. He struck a very moderate race today and Dwayne Dunn could not have given him a better ride - both of those factors helped, too.'