Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong Derby-bound Real Specialist topped a treble for the John Size-Douglas Whyte Dream Team, but a miserable tempo and dropping back in distance did him no favours in justifying his selection for next Sunday's Group One feature.
Nevertheless, Real Specialist did win the 1,600m Class Two contest yesterday as advertised and a ratings lift will certainly back up the decision by club officials to include him in the Derby field off a low mark, even if opinions might have been divided on the merits of the head-margin victory.
Whyte was an unabashed fan of the win, and he and Size agreed that 2,000m would be more to the gelding's liking as he backs up for the third weekend in a row next Sunday, with Felix Coetzee coming to take the ride.
'I couldn't be critical of anything about the win,' said Size. 'He probably looked unimpressive coming back to a very slowly run 1,600m, but he has always given the impression he wants more ground not less, and I hope that's the case. As far as backing up again is concerned, I'm very comfortable with the position I'm in and it will do him good. He's an inexperienced horse who gained more experience today and didn't have a hard run doing it, but again he fought out a tight finish and again he won.'
The gelding's record of six starts for four wins and two seconds, still reads impressively and Whyte was also sufficiently impressed.
'From his first runs, Real Specialist has been one to look around a bit, so for him to be in front for as long as he was today, with other horses coming at him and they are running such quick sectionals, he has done a better job than it looks to win and he's only going to get better,' he said.
Probably not going to get better is Whyte's modest first winner for Size, John Dory, with the Durban Demon calling it almost a unique experience as the gelding landed his second success.
'When do you ever, in this place, get a race where so much went right in the one race?' he asked. 'It would be beautiful to jump off after a win like that and say he might win again but they went along, I slipped into the right spot with cover, I followed the right horse into the race and I got past him in the final 80m. It might have looked fairly comfortable but nothing went wrong from the time the gates opened.'
The pair's final winner, G-One Leading, kept his unbeaten record intact after three starts. He was left in front when leader Pheado could go no further at the top of the straight but overcame his inexperience to win on the score of ability alone.
'He's still learning and needs more experience but only racing can give him that,' Size said. 'He's green and awkward but when he gets to something a bit better than today's race, there'll be a bit more speed and he'll be able to relax behind horses instead of being in front so early.'
Wins Real Specialist has had from six starts