Healthy Armada's good as new
Size's star galloper back with a bang to claim Chairman's Trophy
John Size completed another superb training triumph, winning yesterday's HK$3 million Chairman's Trophy second-up with Armada to put the star galloper's career firmly back on track and the Group One Champions Mile awaits.
However, the secondary story was the emphatic confirmation of the Derby form, with classic runner-up Jackpot Delight running Armada to a neck to earn his invitation to compete at international level next start.
Armada has been in catch-up mode after a year off with problems that struck when he was seemingly at the height of his powers but, with just one run back, he showed he was ready to challenge for the champion-miler mantle that Good Ba Ba wrested from his grasp.
Armada was the champion miler in 2006-07 but, after his defeat in this very race 12 months ago by Good Ba Ba, Size was not happy with the gelding's health and put him aside.
'It's a relief to have him back racing and winning again so soon after such a long break. The main thing was that he wasn't broken down, there was no actual injury,' Size said. 'We tried to bring him back for the international races but he wasn't right, so I didn't persist. When he resumed the other week [Queen's Silver Jubilee Cup] he found trouble early in the straight and the run was better than it might have looked on paper, but that run really brought him on.
'The feeling he was giving me in his work was that he was ready to go to the races again. Douglas [Whyte] was a bit kind today when he hit the front but Armada did what he had to do to hold Jackpot Delight when he challenged and I was happy with that. Hopefully now he'll go home and find another couple of lengths in the next three weeks.'
Whyte was faultless on Armada, positioning him on the back of the speed and producing the six-year-old at just the right time after straightening. 'I don't think he's Armada as we knew him yet. He was a bit rusty,' Whyte said. 'But give him his due, after a year off he had every right to be rusty. He didn't really have a proper run first-up and I had a few concerns going to the mile straight away, but obviously it blew out the cobwebs. In the end, the soft run last time told and it's why Jackpot Delight got as close as he did - not knocking the second horse, but the old Armada would have run away with it and hopefully we'll see the real Armada next time.'
While Size and Whyte claimed the trophy and the cash, trainer Caspar Fownes was exhilarated at the performance of Jackpot Delight.
'I promised [executive director of racing] Bill Nader he would prove he is up to the grade,' Fownes said, referring to the fact that Jackpot Delight was the lowest-rated runner in the race. Of course, I want to win but this was a fabulous performance to run a neck second to a proven top horse at level weights.'
Fownes said he would be making a late nomination of Jackpot Delight for either the HK$8 million Champions Mile or the HK$14 million Audemars Piguet Queen Elizabeth II Cup when they close tomorrow. 'I'm not committing to either race just now. I want to see how he pulls up, and I'll phone his owner [Peter Law Kin-sang] and discuss the situation with him,' Fownes said.
Joyful Winner continued his run of high-class form with a late-closing third without the clearest of runs.
'He was held up at the top of the straight,' trainer John Moore said. 'He's run well, as always, but to beat the top horses like these then everything needs to go right.'
Hello Pretty, also on the comeback trail from leg injuries, had a luckless run before a brave fourth, but trainer Tony Cruz was just as excited by Jackpot Delight's run, since he has Derby winner Helene Mascot headed towards the QE II. 'Now we know how the Derby horses and the weight-for-age horses line up,' he said.