Plastic's simply fantastic, gushes Nunes

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 11 February, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 11 February, 2007, 12:00am

Brazilian will now keep his fingers crossed that Size sticks with him for the Hong Kong Derby

Brazilian riding ace Manoel Nunes will be hoping trainer John Size will stick with him as the jockey for yesterday's Centenary Vase hero Plastic Polymer in the HK$14 million Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong Derby on March 18.

Nunes picked up the mount on Plastic Polymer when top jockey Douglas Whyte elected not to waste to make 113 pounds and, having been gifted the opportunity on the heavily bet $42.50 favourite, made no mistake.

Nunes, winner of two premierships in Macau before being offered a Hong Kong licence at the start of the season, followed Size's instructions to the letter, giving Plastic Polymer a saloon passage on the back of the speed and hooking into the clear early enough so as not to be caught flat-footed.

'John told me he was a fairly straight-forward horse to ride, that there were a number of horses that would be going forward and it would be fairly easy for me to put him in a good position and follow them,' Nunes said.

'I was very conscious of Felix Coetzee on the leader, Sir Ernesto, and I didn't want him getting too much of a start on us so I was out and into the clear in plenty of time. He's run on strongly, and he gives me the impression there's a bit more to come.

'He's a horse who gets a bit hot and stirred up and I think he's going to keep improving with racing.'

Size, who won the Centenary Vase for the second time following the success of Dr More (Shane Dye) in 2003, saw the race much the same way.

'He's still a bit excitable but not too bad,' Size said in his own understated way.

'He's in the Derby and that's the way we're headed, but he won't run in the Derby Trial [February 20] - that comes a little bit too soon.'

Size said he would monitor Plastic Polymer's progress over the next few weeks before deciding which way to go with the four-year-old, who was second to Testafiable in last year's South Australian Derby under the name Empire Gold.

'He may run a fortnight before the Derby, or it's possible he could go into the Derby without another run - I'll just wait and see how he is,' Size summed up.

Size had a good record with the now-retired Palette Natural, winner of four races and 16 minor placings for earnings of HK$7.4 million for the same owners, Lau Tai-kwan and Lao Man-kit.

'Palette Natural did a good job for them and gave them a lot of fun, and I found this horse in Australia and offered it to them,' the trainer said. 'So, at this stage, it's all working out well.'

The Centenary Vase is a Group Three race with prize money of HK$2.3 million and was the most valuable race on yesterday's programme. Nunes also won the second-richest race on the card, the HK$1 million Lantau Island Handicap for Class Two horses on the David Ferraris-trained Ultra Fantasy.

The well-bred Encosta De Lago gelding was sold to owner Lam Tai-fai by former Hong Kong trainer David Hayes, who tagged the four-year-old 'the ideal Hong Kong horse' because of his easy-going attitude and overall toughness.

'David tried this horse at 1,400 metres at his last two starts and although he's run quite well, I felt he didn't really run it right out,' Nunes said.

'Although he had won at 1,700 metres in Australia, conditions here are different and I felt he wasn't so strong at 1,400 metres.

'My recommendation was to come back to 1,200 metres and to race in blinkers, and that's what happened. So I am very pleased it has all worked out so well,' the jockey added.

Ultra Fantasy ($74) needed every advantage that barrier one and blinkers gave him, surviving to win in a four-way photo from King Encosta, favourite Friendly Gains and Gallant Lion.