Size well and truly back in the groove
Five times champion trainer John Size finally broke out with a three timer at Sha Tin yesterday that might easily have been a shot across the bow for the championship that lies ahead.
A sluggish start to the term is not unusual for Size, but after a Brave Kid-Spinnaker double in tandem with Douglas Whyte in the first half of the card, he successfully stepped Appreciation up to 1,800m under William Pike later in the day to lift himself four places on the ladder in a single bound with his first treble since February 1 this year.
Size's unraced and lightly raced horses look a dangerous bunch on paper this season, and Brave Kid's win on debut and Spinnaker's third-start victory fitted right into that category, while Appreciation is now looking a Derby prospect after scoring for the first time beyond 1,400m.
'He begins nicely but he likes to settle and he does settle, provided there is a reasonable tempo, which is what he had today,' Size said.
'Appreciation travels very kindly and we thought to have him midfield and get some idea today if he can stay.
'Well, he certainly passed that test. He ran the 1,800m right out and we could probably try 2,000m with him if we want to.'
Size was unsparing in his praise for Pike, the West Australian star who has struggled to get a foothold so far, and had some sympathy for his position.
'Willie rides well but, unfortunately, we have such a multitude of jockeys to choose from in Hong Kong that it's difficult for the new boys to get an opportunity,' he said. 'The horses he has ridden for me, he has never done anything wrong.'
Brave Kid had been a smart trial winner in New Zealand in April last year, but it was another 18 months before his debut yesterday in race two as a hot favourite and he didn't disappoint.
'He's been slow coming because he was injured in New Zealand and had a long spell after that before being exported,' Size said.
'But he's in good shape now. I think he showed that 1,000m is too short for him, he won on ability alone.'
Whyte agreed, saying Brave Kid had progressed every time he had ridden him: 'He never puts a foot wrong, he's got a lot of raw ability and I'm sure he'll come on again for having this experience.'
Spinnaker was slightly better-hidden, resulting in his 26-1 starting odds, but the move from sprints at his first two starts to 1,800m this time was all the difference.
'He gave the impression 1,400m was much too short and after he seemed to enjoy himself in a 1,600m trial the other day, I thought we'd go straight to 1,800m and find out,' Size said.
'He was in his element today bowling along up on the speed one-paced. That's his go and it might make it a bit difficult to find appropriate races but there is a place for him here.'
Spinnaker's prospects might open up if he can get around the Happy Valley 2,200m course and Whyte said there was no reason to think he wouldn't.
'He has been a bit of a hard nut to crunch,' he said. 'We've done plenty of work with him in the barriers and he was in the right frame of mind today and won with some purpose.
'He's a dour stayer, the 2,200m at the Valley should suit but I think he'll appreciate a solid 2,000m here, too.'
Making a case
John Size's three winners have lifted him to this position in the trainers' ladder: 7