Size lays down the gauntlet to rivals
If there were still any doubts about the big hand five-time championship winner John Size will play in the trainers' title race this season, he erased them yesterday with his fourth treble in five meetings to move within shooting range of the lead.
With Tony Cruz landing a double to go to 23 wins and the championship lead, Size was not being left behind with Golden Treasure (Willie Pike) sandwiched between Douglas Whyte wins on Spinnaker and A Walk In The Park to take the Australian to 20 victories and fourth position.
Whyte's winning mounts were at the top and bottom of the weights, with Spinnaker shouldering 132 pounds and the South African having to forego the Christmas pudding to ride A Walk In The Park at 116 pounds in the last race.
'That's twice I've got down to 116 pounds this season and luckily they've both won,' said Whyte after A Walk In the Park fended off challenges all around him to win a tightly contested final event.
'Before I went to Japan to ride in the Super Jockey series, we'd taken the headgear off A Walk In The Park and went back with him and he really motored home, so the writing was on the wall then. At the start of the season, the blinkers went on to get him to go forward and he did, but he was just overdoing it. Now he's dropping his head and finding the line.'
While Whyte was in Hanshin, Pike took the opportunity to win on the four-year-old in Class Four, but Whyte made sure to make the weight for yesterday's successful entry to Class Three.
'He has been consistent, but he's had a few runs now and is toughening up and finding a bit extra at the finish, which he wasn't before through greenness and inexperience,' Size said. 'He got a perfect run in the race today but he did have to earn it at the end.'
Yet both Size and Whyte give every impression that Spinnaker could be something of a surprise packet this season, with the stayer making it two from two since stepping up to a distance and giving every indication he will be the one to beat again next time in Class Three.
Under 132 pounds, he strolled away at the finish with Whyte declaring he was not a horse that the big weight was going to stop.
'He'd carry 140 pounds and win - he's a big, strong horse and that was the problem. He started to realise he was big and strong a couple of months ago and he wasn't the easiest to work with,' Whyte said.
'Lately, he's been more gentle and forgotten all that, and he wants to be a racehorse. If he wanted to be a problem, believe me, you'd be in trouble, but I just love him now - I think when anyone asks me about highlights of the season, he's probably going to be one. We have had to put a lot of work into deciding what he wants - you see he has a shank on him and I have to get off for him to load but they are things he is happy to do.
'He doesn't want to be bullied. But in a race the beauty of him is that he settles and you could put him wherever you like, take off wherever you like.
'He's got a few things in his favour - he can carry weight, he races in a forward position and he can stay, so he can surprise a few people,' he added.
Size said he did not fear the rise to Class Three with Spinnaker now, provided there are distance races available.
'I don't think that 1,600m would suit him, but as long as he gets a distance he should handle a class rise,' he said.
'He's got the speed to put himself forward in a 2,000m race like today, even from an outside draw. The pace wasn't strong and I guess the lack of speed could have beaten him but it didn't.'
Golden Treasure continued the golden run of Pike in recent weeks and the jockey was giving all the credit to Size.
'He told me just to wait and ride for luck up the inside - I might not have run in the first five if I had tried to come away from the rail and to the outside,' Pike said after coming from near last all along the fence to win narrowly in a blanket finish.
John Size has registered 20 winners after another three-timer and now sits in the trainers' table standings in: 4th