Size poised to unleash Specialist and company
John Size revealed a forgotten potential star, continued the steady development of a Group One Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong Derby hopeful and unveiled yet another Private Purchase who is primed to strike first-up in yesterday's three dirt trials at Sha Tin.
Real Specialist was two-for-two in his debut season and many were tipping him to progress the way of the rich four-year-old contests, but the ever-patient Size has held the Private Purchase griffin back and seems content to take an orthodox path through the grades with him.
Real Specialist copped 10 and nine points respectively for his wins over 1,200m and 1,400m, taking him to a mark of 71. He hasn't been sighted on the racetrack since last June when he won under a hold, beating Sweet Orange, despite pulling and racing ungenerously in the middle stages. After the lengthy break, the Australian trainer has now given the gelding two trials in the space of two weeks to bring him to hand.
The first was a 1,050m all-weather hit-out with Tye Angland aboard, where he relaxed and coasted home into third. This time Douglas Whyte took the reins and again sought to have the horse, who seems to have developed physically during the break, settled in the run. Real Specialist let down into his long action and found the line nicely, beating Prolific Champion (Matthew Chadwick) by a short head in a time of 1.12.2.
The Size-trained Earl Of Leitrim was another to catch the eye with the fastest trial of the morning (1.12.0). He came to the trainer with an English record of two-from-three as a two-year-old, including a Listed win over 1,200m, giving him a rating of 89. The now four-year-old by Johannesburg is raced by Ranjan Tikam Mahtani, the owner of Super Satin, and carries the same distinctive green silks with black sash.
Size has given the sprinter four trials and he has finished first in the last two. This time he sat deep throughout, yet was still able to cruise into the contest and burst away with Whyte sitting motionless as his mount built momentum right to the line.
Racing handy and finishing third in the 1,200m trial was Size's impressive debut winner Classic Jewellery (Angland). The three-year-old was withdrawn from a 1,400m event in December with mucopus issues and will be hard to beat when he resumes off his new mark of 66.
Dropping out of the trial was multiple Group One winner and Stewards' Cup entry Beauty Flash. The 121-rated six-year-old shortened stride badly in the straight and weakened to finish last.
Likely Stewards' Cup runners finished one-two in the first trial. Size's Sichuan Success held off Hong Kong Cup winner California Memory and they both seem on target for next Sunday's showdown with Ambitious Dragon. Maxime Guyon rode Sichuan Success, who strode wide in the 1,200m and moved to the front easily.
Finishing fourth was Size's highly rated Hong Kong Derby entrant Cheers Joy (Whyte), who seems to have turned things around since being failed by stewards in his first trial.
He travelled strongly outside the leader, Win A Dozen, and seemed to have plenty in store heading to the line under a throttle hold. When his stablemate passed to the outside, Whyte had to take a grip to keep the stayer underneath him. The gelding has now had three trials, the last two being forward efforts after he finished last in a 1,000m turf heat on January 3.
Cheers Joy arrived from France with a glittering resume and a mark of 95, his last run being a bold front-running effort in the Group One Secretariat Stakes (2,000m) at Arlington, where he was run down by Irish Derby winner Treasure Beach. Prior to that the Alain de Royer-Dupre-trained runner won three straight over 2,100m, 2,000m and 1,850m - the final two at stakes level.