John Size is typically circumspect ahead of saddling up his international aspirants Glorious Days and Fay Fay in Sunday's star-studded Oriental Watch Sha Tin Trophy, 1,600m.
Size's task was made easier yesterday when the horse that beat Glorious Days in the Champions Mile last May, John Moore-trained Xtension, was withdrawn with a minor joint concern although the six-year-old is expected to go to the Jockey Club Mile next month.
Glorious Days has yet to win at Group One level but his first season of racing as a four-year-old yielded four wins, three placings at Group One and Two and 14th in the Yasuda Kinen.
Size had intended the trip to Japan to bring Glorious Days on mentally, wherever he finished, and he said it appeared to have had the desired effect.
"He behaved very well in Japan, he was a perfect model for a horse to take away and that was what we were hoping for," Size said. "He came home in good shape - finishing where he did in Japan, he didn't overexert himself and he took no harm from it. He's had a good break and done everything right."
December's Longines Hong Kong Mile is the target for Glorious Days - a hoodoo race in which Size has saddled up the second placegetter three times.
"He's just turned five, he hasn't had a lot of racing so there's every reason to think he should be able to continue making progress," Size said. "The horse seems to have come back well and the evidence of his trial the other day is that he's feeling pretty good. Obviously, Sunday isn't his main target and there's some improvement to come, but I'm hopeful he can win."
While Glorious Days has shown he can play with the big boys, Size concedes Fay Fay has yet to do the same despite a Derby win against his own age group and a record that reads 12 starts for six wins and four seconds.
"He's a different type altogether and the reality is that he has a low rating for this sort of company - he's rated 113 by the handicapper and had to win a Derby to get to there," Size said. "So he hasn't really proved he is up to the class of some of these horses. He hasn't really got the acceleration the Group One horses have, but that won't stop him winning a handicap if he gets it run right to suit. Sunday is a handicap, he has only 117 pounds to carry and every horse should have a chance."
As far as the December internationals are concerned, Size is keeping an open mind on a target for Fay Fay.
"He'll be entered for two internationals, the Mile and the Cup, and then it will be up to the Jockey Club whether they want him for one of those races or not," the trainer said. "But if he can win a race like this … I think he would probably get a call-up for one."