'It's a worry when you have a big gap. It's 15 pounds to the second highest-weighted horse'
The brilliance of Electronic Unicorn's first-up win placed enough pressure on trainer John Size even before the Hong Kong Mile withdrawals of Sunline and Fairy King Prawn and today the racing public waits breathless to see if lightning will strike again in the Chevalier Cup over 1,600 metres.
'Gee, there's a bit of expectation on him now. I have had people telling me how easy it's going to be now without Fairy King Prawn and Sunline,' Size said. 'I just ask them if the European horses and the American horses and the Australian and Japanese horses are still running.'
Today's features - the Chevalier Cup and Sprint Trial - are the last chance for International race aspirants to impress, with the local invitations to be announced on Wednesday. While everyone in Hong Kong racing is watching to see Electronic Unicorn blitz a quality field the way he did in the National Panasonic Cup first-up, Size is playing down that scenario.
'That's a big ask and he's got no favours. The weight is a real concern,' Size said. 'It's always a worry when you have such a big gap between one horse and the rest. It's 15 pounds to the second highest-weighted horse and they are pretty good horses to give that weight.
'I'm happy with him and hope he can win but if the race is not run to suit or he has bad luck, then he might have a job ahead. He looks fine, he is healthy - we'll just turn him loose and see what happens.'
Size's fears are well founded for two of the last four Chevalier Cups have been won by the lightest weighted runner and Tequila Pop carried only 118 pounds winning in 1998. Electronic Unicorn won with 127 pounds last year but was running off a mark of 114 and is 18 points higher now.
Although the Sprint Trial is a different race, the last two results highlight what Size is concerned about. Two years ago, Oriental Express ran favourite in the Sprint Trial, conceding a minimum of 16 pounds all around and was third to Schubert. Last year Fairy King Prawn was touched off by lightly weighted King Of Danes when forced to give away a minimum of 17 pounds at the handicaps and 22 pounds to the winner.
Rival trainer David Hayes said this week his father, legendary Australian trainer Colin, always told him not to be afraid of taking on one horse and his attitude remained optimistic yesterday. 'If this was Fairy King Prawn, who has performed like that Panasonic Cup win over and over again, then I might be prepared to be a little frightened,' he said. 'But Electronic Unicorn has yet to prove that he is Fairy King Prawn and can repeat that form. He has to give Meridian Star 16 pounds and Super Molly probably 18 or 19, depending on how close to 113 Basil Marcus can get.
'I'm not dreaming - if Electronic Unicorn puts up the same run as he did first time out then he'll win - but I've usually found that when a horse is so brilliant one day, he can find it hard to do next time, especially second-up.
'Mine have both had a couple of starts this season, Electronic Unicorn has had only one and it wouldn't be the craziest thing that ever happened if we beat him.'
Tony Cruz put the saddle on King Of Danes when he beat Fairy King Prawn last year and has Red Sun engaged in the Chevalier Cup today. 'That big gap is a real disadvantage for Electronic Unicorn,' he said. 'Half the field is getting 20 pounds off him and even 15 to the second one is a lot of weight. He is a top horse but he could be beaten with that difference in weight. We'll see how good he is.' King Of Danes lines up for the Sprint Trial again, a year older and stronger, with an extra 19 pounds. 'The only two things which will disadvantage him are the weight and the fact that it is his first run for the season,' Cruz said. 'I don't know how he will carry the weight but I'm sure after this he will be spot on for the international sprint.'
Hayes also has a strong hand in the Trial, with Charming City and All Thrills Too - the former in blinkers. 'Charming City has been crying out for the blinkers and I think that a 1,000-metre race is the right place to try them,' Hayes said. 'Lucky Win, King Of Danes and Winning Counter are all very fast and I imagine that Charming City will be sitting just off them and finishing strongly. All Thrills Too hasn't put a foot wrong this season, he has a nice weight and I'm hoping that he can win and get an invitation to the Hong Kong Sprint.'
Lucky Win, the former Trillion Win from Singapore, has been one of the most interesting imports this season and trainer Peter Ho has had to get tough on him to be ready for today's Hong Kong Sprint lead-up after his inglorious last in the Happy Valley Trophy last month.
'When he was beaten at Happy Valley, he wasn't fit,' Ho said. 'Lucky Win isn't like a normal sprinter who can just have one or two good gallops and he is fit. He is not a fresh type.'
With that in his mind, Ho has set Lucky Win on an epic training regime recently. He was spared nothing winning a barrier trial down the Sha Tin straight by a big margin and Lucky Win has been reeling off some sizzling training gallops since.
'I would love Lucky Win to be selected for the Hong Kong Sprint, so I wanted to make sure he was sharp for this race,' Ho explained.
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