'He has earned his place in the Sprint field, he's a horse with very good character'
John Size was cautiously optimistic, Felix Coetzee plainly Enthused, but the sprinter of that name dug just deep enough to win the photo finish and launch himself into the big time in yesterday's Cathay Pacific International Sprint Trial (1,200m).
Coetzee congratulated Eric Saint-Martin on Sunny Power after the pair had crossed the finish line, believing his mount had not held Sunny Power's late burst, but the judge found Enthused's commitment had lasted long enough to win the race - and hopefully not too long to give himself his best chance in the Hong Kong Sprint on the world stage in three weeks' time.
'Ideally, you wouldn't like to see him have such a hard run going into a big race, but that was the way the race turned out and he had to fight to win it,' said Size after Enthused rallied twice in the straight after being left in the lead somewhat earlier than Coetzee would have liked.
'He shows plenty of resilience up on the pace like that. He settles well and doesn't waste any energy so that helps him when they do come at him late in the race. How much more there is - I don't know. A horse who is winning will usually have a little more up the sleeve so hopefully there's a bit more rating there. Enthused's earned his place in the Sprint field, he's a horse with very good character and, provided he comes through this well and has some luck in running on the day, you'd hope he can run well in the international race.'
Coetzee said the early leaders Lucky Quality and Scintillation had not been much help to his mount, weakening as they straightened for the judge and leaving Enthused in front for a long way.
'What I like about him as a real international standard horse is that he's got all that pace - he's going to travel in any company,' Coetzee said. 'On the turn, the leaders were already coming back to me and I got there a little bit quicker than I wanted. He's only won by a nose and I thought I'd missed the bob on the line, but those leaders didn't take me very far and I think it would have helped Enthused if he'd had something to run at for longer.'
Most eyes were on the finish but Size needed both of his, with his Mile entry Armada hard to miss getting home strongly into fifth place at his first run since finishing second in the Yasuda Kinen in Tokyo last June.
'He hasn't had a race for a while and he's been pretty relaxed and switched off,' Size said. 'He didn't have the pace to go with those sprinters and got out of his ground, but when Douglas Whyte stirred him up he seemed to sprint well and be quite happy to do so. If he does well between now and three weeks time, he's going to run well in the Mile.'
John Moore is hoping for a Mile invitation for Able One, who finished fourth, returning from a stress fracture injury.
'He's already won an international race at a mile so I think he deserves an invitation now that he's shown he's come back so well from the injury,' the trainer said.
Green Birdie's trainer, Caspar Fownes, was hoping to finalise his international target for the gelding depending on yesterday's racing, but was still undecided last night.
'I want to study the sectionals and have a look at it again,' he said.
'My belief is that Green Birdie is a natural miler, but now I'm leaning towards the Hong Kong Sprint as his mission because we're assured of a genuine speed and he can be ridden the way we want - buried away in between horses and come out very late with a quick burst. He got to Enthused a bit sooner than we wanted today,' he added.