'He is a horse who has always done very well when he's fresh'
Smart five-year-old Sunny Power heads into the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Sprint next month in uncharted waters as far as class is concerned but he earned his owner an 'extra' winning cheque yesterday on the way to dipping his toe in the big pool.
Owner Pong Yuen-man had been keen for Sunny Power to tackle the big names in the International Sprint Trial last week to see how his horse would measure up to the top graders but trainer Francis Lui Kin-wai pulled the right rein in convincing his client to miss it and wait for the Chevalier Cup (1,400m) yesterday.
With the gelding - a winner now in seven of his 13 starts - already selected for the Sprint when invitations were passed out last Wednesday, Sunny Power had nothing to prove but everything to gain in yesterday's feature and Lui's judgment was spot on.
Dropped straight into a trail behind the long-priced Helene Pillaging in the race, Sunny Power (Howard Cheng Yue-tin) handled his return to 1,400m with aplomb, relaxing better than he had in previous attempts then finding a kick at the finish when he needed it to squeeze home over Never Look Back.
'The owner wanted to run last week against Sacred Kingdom and Absolute Champion and those horses, but I thought it was too tough a race. We have to meet them in the international race anyway but this gave him a better chance to win,' said Lui.
'And if he didn't win today, at least running over 1,400 metres and with a good weight, it was going to give Sunny Power a good tough run to make him fit for the Hong Kong Sprint.'
Lui is excited by the prospect of his first international runner and confirmed yesterday that Cheng will be remaining aboard for his first international Group One ride when the gelding steps out for the real thing against Miss Andretti and Sacred Kingdom on December 9.
'There is no reason to change the jockey as far as I can see - he has won two out of three for Howard and has run very well for him every time,' said Lui, who said the preparation of Sunny Power would be almost literally a walk in the park from here on.
'He is a horse who has always done very well when he's fresh, so now that he can't be any fitter than he was today, I just need to work him slowly and keep him fresh. I think he'll be in very top form for that race now.'
Lui said Sunny Power's tendency to become hot and bothered before his races is gradually disappearing with maturity and experience, though the parade yard at Sha Tin still gets him on the toe. 'When he's in front of the crowd, he still gets jumpy but I asked Howard to get him out on to the track first and once he is out there, he settles down,' Lui explained.
'And he is a little more settled in his races too now, and that is just maturity.'
And Paul O'Sullivan is hoping that will do the trick for runner-up Never Look Back, who had raced fiercely in his debut start recently but was only regarded as 'a bit keen' during yesterday's race before finishing second.
'I think it's just something that he is going to get over with more racing - he was better today and I think he'll be better again next time,' he said. 'I'm pleased with that. I'm sick of seconds, but I'm happy with him.'
On the rise
Sunny Power has racked up seven wins out of this many starts: 13