Size on track for personal record
John Size thundered inexorably towards his seventh trainers' title in 11 seasons at Sha Tin, landing a treble that helped to keep both he and Douglas Whyte on target for personal bests this term but it wasn't all plain sailing for short-odds punters.
Size's best winning tally was his 77 wins in 2005-06 to take the championship but he went to 55 victories yesterday with a third of the season still to be completed.
Ten-pounder claimer Alvin Ng Ka-chun did enough for John Dory to make it back-to-back victories, while Whyte steered home debutant Can Do with considerable comfort for his backers and then The Peak with an equal level of anxiety. Box seated to the home turn on The Peak, a dominant $16.50 favourite looking for three from three, Whyte said he got a chill fairly early in the 1,200m event when he looked up to see 1,000m specialist Vintage Hussler ahead of him in the lead and the only other two realistic hopes in the race, Fionn's Treasure (Zac Purton) and Sterling City (Jeff Lloyd) on his outside.
'That was when I knew I was in bother, they had me surrounded and Vintage Hussler wasn't going to take me into the race for too long,' Whyte said. 'All I could think was how unlucky I was going to be. I hate pulling back and coming around them in that situation - I had the horse travelling and in a lovely momentum so I said to myself I'd wait for Vintage Hussler to knock up and maybe I could weave a run through. But he didn't knock up that quick and was holding his place and I started to come around him hoping to sneak inside Fionn's Treasure but I would have knocked them down if I'd gone that way. Fortunately, Jeff's horse is a bit green still and rolled out and an opening came.'
When the gap did come, Fionn's Treasure still looked to have the race parceled up but The Peak leaped out of the pocket to grab him in the final stride and complete a frustrating day for Purton, who had six minor placings.
'The Peak is not a big horse, so being the size he is and having the willingness he has, he was able to get through. He really wanted it,' Whyte said. All was well that ended well with The Peak, but Can Do was a far more painless display for punters that took the short odds about the colt, who'd had plenty of schooling for his debut with seven trials locally to add to the two he had in Australia.
'He's a colt and a bit bully, and I wasn't happy with his trials so I kept sending him back,' Size said. 'I wanted to be sure we knew what he wanted before he came to the races, make sure he knew what racing was about. He had a chance to do everything correctly today and he did.'
Whyte said the son of Fast 'N' Famous had not put a foot wrong but reiterated that his remaining an entire could prove a concern.
'As we know, that doesn't always help them in this environment but he's with the right trainer and you couldn't fault what he did today - he was very focused from the time the gates opened and really accelerated nicely when he let down,' he said, after the pair took him to 79 wins and on schedule to give his own season record of 114 wins a nudge.
No compliments again for John Dory, who got a perfect trip for the second start in a row to win again, but still didn't impress his trainer.
'Had a lovely run and 10 pounds off his back but still looked like he wanted to give it away in the last 100,' Size said. 'Solid enough effort and he's won three now, which is good, but I don't think there's a lot to him.'