Size and Coetzee work their magic on Pocket Money
Former Class Three galloper graduates into a Group winner
Pocket Money completed the transition from Class Three horse to Group Three winner at Sha Tin yesterday, shrugging off a tough wide run to grab the Chinese Club Challenge Cup (1,400m) as John Size and Felix Coetzee began the year with a bang.
Both Size and Coetzee landed trebles, a result that allowed Coetzee to face a careless-riding ban with rare serenity and Size to open a handy break at the top of the trainers' charts, but it was their partnership with Pocket Money in the feature which held centre stage.
Having won two of 16 under previous trainer Sean Woods, Pocket Money may have appeared to have his limitations when he was moved to Size's yard during last season as a Class Three galloper.
But he has risen through the grades under the Australian's magic, now with four wins and three seconds from just 10 starts for Size, and lifted the prestigious trophy event yesterday from a field of stars, despite doing it tougher than any runner.
'He's covered ground and still won and that isn't easy to do,' observed Size. 'He had a bit of time off after his last run in October so he's come back for this nice and fresh and had a light weight so it looked the right race for him, but he's done a good job under the circumstances.'
To date the gelding's victories have all come at 1,400m, prompting Size to remark that 'it looks his thing' but the trainer might take encouragement from Coetzee should he decide to stretch the horse to a mile and open up more options for Pocket Money.
'I do think he's relaxed enough to get a mile and that was a very tough win today,' Coetzee said. 'He was always wide from the gate and obviously that wasn't ideal, but when I asked him to accelerate in the straight I couldn't believe the kick he still gave me. He just wasn't going to stop.'
Pocket Money came from midfield, but Coetzee was playing all the shots, bringing the David Ferraris-trained Crusader Of Gold with a copybook ride from last to take the Hebei Handicap (2,000m) before the South African wrapped up his three-timer in the final event on Size's Congratulation after being allowed to dictate to his rivals in front.
'It looked a race that lacked pace and I was going forward but he just landed there in the lead,' he said.
'I was very happy with the tempo and he travelled beautifully and accelerated so well when we turned in that I thought they would be doing well to pass him. When Ouraja first moved up, my horse was still travelling very well but close to the line Ouraja came at us and I must confess I thought Brett [Prebble] had beaten me.'
But the photo came down the right way for Coetzee and the treble softened the sting in the tail of the day when stewards later found him guilty of careless riding in the ninth on Gilded Flight and handed out a two-day ban and HK$35,000 fine.
Congratulation had been very consistent, Size said, and deserved to win a race after having recently had one taken off him at Happy Valley on protest.
'I thought he was going to be hard to beat from a fair way out the way it was run, but he didn't win by much and he wasn't going to win at all with 50m to go,' he said. 'But where Congratulation was doing a few things wrong before, he's doing things right now and he deserved that.'
Pocket Money has won four times and finished second thrice from this many starts for trainer John Size: 10