Size and Moore have season to remember
John Size wrested back the premiership which has become almost his personal domain, but the historical high note for the 2007-08 season was his compatriot John Moore becoming the first professional of either discipline to train 1,000 winners.
March 19 was the date, Happy Valley the venue, Master Gunner the horse and the stable's retained jockey, Darren Beadman, was the pilot. Moore had taken over from Brian Kan Ping-chee as the most successful trainer in Hong Kong's history in January, 2005, and since then has relentlessly run down the 1,000 win goal.
Moore, who ended the season with 47 wins, hit the line strongly over the last few weeks and once again took the 'financial premiership', with 'Team Moore' having earned HK$63 million, spearheaded by Group One winner Viva Pataca. Moore has now been the leading trainer by prize money in three successive terms, and he says this means the stable's primary goal for the term has been met.
Size hit the ground running in September, hit the lead after two months and cruised to title number five - a remarkable performance after just seven seasons.
Once the dust finally settled after the rescheduled meeting on Thursday night, Size landed the championship with 68 wins, 13 clear of defending titleholder Caspar Fownes.
Size, 54, is now into serious territory. At five championships, he has drawn level with Moore and the now retired Kan, and has pulled clear of Ivan Allan (three wins), the Singaporean champion who made such a huge impact during the 1990s.
The benchmark is safe for the moment, however, as the late George Moore claimed the title 11 times before handing the reins to son John at the end of the 1984-85 term. His partnership with Douglas Whyte has been a highlight, with the pair joining forces 167 times for 39 winners, 24 seconds and 18 thirds - that's 23.4 per cent winners and in the quinella 37.7 per cent of the time.
Fownes, on 55 wins, ran a cracker for second, avoiding the dreaded 'premiership hangover' with a strong, consistent performance to prove there was no element of fluke to his maiden championship last season.
Although many of his stars of 2006-07 struggled on their higher handicap marks, Fownes still wove plenty of magic and once again was the King of Happy Valley, where he landed 34 winners from 184 runners (18.5 per cent).
Tony Cruz came in fifth, with 45 winners in a performance that was highlighted by the dual Group One victories of Helene Mascot. Only a setback stopped the Peintre Celebre colt from completing the triple crown for four-year-olds, but his season ended with a failure in the Audemars Piquet Queen Elizabeth II Cup and a subsequently-discovered wind infirmity. But Cruz's prize money haul of HK$58 million was second only to Moore's, so the season was still eminently successful.
At the other end of the scale, Derek Cruz and Alex Wong Yu-on failed to meet the trainers' minimum performance criteria, with 11 and eight wins respectively. It was the first time for each of these popular local horsemen and will only result in a letter from the licensing committee looking for an explanation for the below-par performances.
However, as Sacred Kingdom's Ricky Yiu Poon-fie has shown over the last two seasons, a warning letter is not a death knell and may even be a stimulus to significantly greater things.