Sprinters from Down Under worth their weight in gold
When our counterparts from Europe consider what the difference is between their sprinters and those from this part of the world - let's call them Australian-breds for the sake of the exercise - then they might consider the comments of British jockey Neil Callan after he won on Straight Gold last week.
Callan told the Post he had ridden Group-winning sprinters at home that basically didn't give him anything like the feeling Straight Gold gave him in winning at the bottom of Class Two. He said: 'I've ridden some good sprinters at home in the UK, but the feel you get from the southern hemisphere horses is completely different - this is a big, powerful horse.'
And, as a relatively immature summer three-year-old, Straight Gold is going to get bigger and more powerful than the 1,186 pounds he scaled at declaration time for that race.
Consider Silent Witness, who weighed something similar at the same early time in his life as December turned to January in his three-year-old season, but wound up presenting at around 1,300 pounds by the time he was retired four years later.
If Callan is impressed by the size and power of Straight Gold, then he will be gobsmacked if Australia's hulking Hay List or the great mare Black Caviar make it to Royal Ascot this year. Black Caviar has raced at close to 1,300 pounds, while Hay List's racing weight before his extended injury break was well over 1,350 pounds. Big kids, indeed.
And a look at recent Hong Kong Sprint body weights suggest there is something in it, even though we have all seen huge horses that couldn't run out of sight on a dark night and smaller horses punching well above their body weights.
The local runners in the Sprint averaged the best part of 10 per cent heavier than their visiting rivals, with an average body weight of a solid enough 1,143 pounds against their polite 1,058. Of course, the smallest of the Hongkongers won the race - northern hemisphere-bred Lucky Nine at 1,089 pounds - but he was still heavier than most of the visitors.
That falls below the rule-of-thumb average body weights at a Hong Kong meeting, as local owners have a preference for bigger horses - as agents will tell you with a grimace - which would fall somewhere around 1,100 pounds, and that includes the horses racing over longer distances.
Like human beings, contestants tend to get smaller on average as the distances get longer, which is why we have seen a tiny horse like Vallee Enchantee able to win the Hong Kong Vase in 2003, despite weighing in at only 818 pounds, though at that weight she would still qualify as some sort of exception no matter what the trips.