Special Days faces acid test in Gold Cup
Special Days' honesty finally nabbed him a major win in the Group Three Jebsen Centenary Vase at Sha Tin yesterday, but the same quality is going to ensure there is nowhere to hide from the big guns for the six-year-old from here on in.
Part of a double for the Dream Team of trainer John Size and jockey Douglas Whyte, Special Days was having his third run in as many weekends, but was too tough on the line for Mr Medici, who went down by a short head after finishing near the outside fence, with another narrow margin to Jamesina (Zac Purton).
Horse Of The Year Viva Pataca (Darren Beadman) was beaten but far from bowed in finishing fourth, conceding sizeable parcels of weight to each of the placegetters and will meet them again under better conditions on Citibank Hong Kong Gold Cup day at the end of the month.
Coming off a length fourth in last week's Stewards' Cup at Group One level, Special Days looked better placed at handicap conditions this time and so it proved as he won his seventh victory from 28 starts, but the serious events will be his diet in future.
'He's been very consistent, very hard working but he's won off a 118 rating now and that means his options have become very limited,' said Size after the victory. 'He'll run in the Gold Cup [February 28] next time and he won't be as well placed under level weights, but the 2,000m certainly won't worry him.'
Whyte also harbours some doubts about Special Days at Group One level, but warned the gelding's genuine nature would ensure he would keep earning cheques.
'His rating is too high now for anything else and he's in no-man's land,' he said. 'But his whole mannerism has transformed these days, he has learned to be a proper horse.
'I don't think he'll ever be what you'd call a genuine Group One horse, but he will always be thereabouts and, if something better is vulnerable or off their game, then he'll be there to capitalise on it.'
Mr Medici kept up his honest record since arriving, and both he and Jamesina will head to the Gold Cup, too, but all the placegetters will be getting the worst of things with Viva Pataca (Darren Beadman) as he seeks a third successive Gold Cup.
'I wasn't disappointed at all with fourth today,' said trainer John Moore. 'That's what happens when you take on these handicap events carrying 133 pounds, they are tough to win. But Viva has run on well and found the line and that was what we wanted to see after a couple of disappointing ones.
'When we go back to the terms conditions in the Gold Cup, he'll be meeting all these horses at level weights instead of giving them a head start at the weights.'
Earlier Size and Whyte opened the programme winning with debutant Entrapment up the straight course, but that was no surprise, either, with several strong barrier trials having advertised the three-year-old as above average.
'He's a lovely individual. He came out slowly today but, in a way, I didn't really want him to come out too quick because he can be a bit headstrong,' Whyte said.
'Getting in behind horses, he went to sleep and really found the line. The merit of the win was probably a question mark - My Melody only won in Class Five and it seemed to me the two other favourites in the race didn't really handle the wet going while Entrapment revelled in it, so I hope the handicapper isn't too harsh on him. I'd like to see him have another go in Class Four with more weight and see how good he is.'
The first winner here for the little known stallion Halo Homewrecker, Entrapment shaped like he will handle further than the 1,000m, but Size said probably not much further.
'Perhaps he'll change with age, but he doesn't feel like anything but a sprinter when I ride him in the mornings,' the trainer said. 'He didn't beat much today but he's done his job.'