Sight Winner singing in rain
Reigning champion trainer John Size was not about to ignite any optimism about his chances of holding the title, despite landing a four timer at Sha Tin, and his major concern was that ATV Cup hero Sight Winner had been waved away by Japanese racing officials.
A visitor to the Yasuda Kinen in the past two seasons, including a cracking close-up fourth last year, Sight Winner (Olivier Doleuze) again showed this is his time of the year when he outgamed Destined For Glory and Admiration to take the feature race. The Champions Mile winner of 2009 in soft going had not struck the same sort of conditions since that race, but grabbed his chance dropping back into Class One when the rain arrived in the lead-up to the ATV Cup - a race traditionally run in wet weather.
'I'm very pleased to see him win but he should be in the Yasuda Kinen,' Size lamented. 'The horse is in great form and he improved when he went to Tokyo last year, I think he enjoys the place and the left-handed direction, but he didn't get an invitation this time.'
The Tony Cruz-trained Beauty Flash and Caspar Fownes' Thumbs Up will be heading for the Yasuda Kinen in Tokyo on June 5.
Sight Winner travelled well handy to the leader Blue Sky but looked at the mercy of his 133 pounds handicap when the John Moore-trained Admiration and Destined For Glory came at him at the 200m.
'John Moore's horses came quick and I thought they had me but Sight Winner wanted that win very much today,' said Doleuze.
'He's a Group One winner, and when he got the rain before the race I was happy.'
Size said it was 'an extremely good example' of what Sight Winner is about.
'He's very consistent running in conditions that are not suitable. He's very tenacious and he's there trying his best to win regardless of the conditions, but when he does something that happens in his favour, he takes advantage of it,' he said.
Size's day was almost without flaw, with runners in only five races and Sight Winner, Vitality Express and Project Runway (both ridden by Zac Purton) and Hot Shot (Mark du Plessis) landing the prize and Dr Win going within a head of making it five. For good measure, his two runners provided the last race quinella.
But the Australian still trails leader Cruz by 10 wins and Moore by five and is calling correct weight on a Cruz championship.
'He's got too much up his sleeve. Tony looked the winner to me six weeks ago and I don't see any reason to change that view,' Size said.
Vitality Express was coming off the worst run in his Hong Kong career in the wet at Happy Valley last time, but Size said a gear change and barrier trial since provided the clues for punters, who sent him out at 24-1.
'There was no trick to it. He failed on the wet at Happy Valley and Douglas Whyte said he wasn't happy with how the horse was breathing,' Size said. 'So we put a tongue tie on him in a trial and he trialled well in it and he's brought the same form here today.'
Purton's rapidly improving record with Size got a boost from the double, taking advantage of Whyte's suspension.
'Full credit to John with Vitality Express. He's been going all season and never runs a bad race. Obviously there were excuses in his last run, but he travelled well in the tongue tie and I was able to get going on him a bit early, which suits him because he's quite one paced,' Purton said.