Champion trainer John Size has dipped his toe back in the Group One pond over the past year after a drought, but even his stunning upset with It Has To Be You has failed to ignite any serious optimism about Fay Fay's prospects in the HK$8 million Citibank Hong Kong Gold Cup on Sunday.
At 125-1, It Has To Be you threw out his credentials to follow Fay Fay's 2012 win and be Size's second Hong Kong Derby winner. Added to Glorious Days' Stewards' Cup victory in January, he gave the trainer a third Group One in the last 12 months following a three-year absence from that elite circle.
Size said yesterday it wasn't something he lay awake at night worrying about.
"Of course, it's nice to win them but first you need the horse. I'll cop it sweet when those horses come along but I'd go crazy worrying about how many Group Ones I'm winning here," he said. "It isn't like Australia, where there are many, many Group Ones in half a dozen different states and if you look hard enough you can travel to find a race you can win.
"In Hong Kong, you always have one or two horses who dominate each distance range and you can't escape. Every time you turn up for a Group One, they are there, and you can't beat them."
It's something Size went through with Electronic Unicorn when he was the dominant miler and on the flipside with Sight Winner, who won a surprise 2009 Champions Mile then spent 21/2 years marooned on a high mark and finishing within three lengths of Good Ba Ba, Able One and Beauty Flash, but unable to win. And now Size is a realist where Fay Fay is concerned.
"I thought he was, at best, an average Derby winner last year, winning off a 110 rating and nothing special and I thought he'd struggle after," Size said. "So far, I've been pleasantly surprised. Even though he hasn't won, he has run truly and to his rating. Going to the Gold Cup, I think he can earn prize money, but it would be a quantum leap in his form to beat California Memory."
In Umberto Rispoli, Size has a jockey who has been positive about Fay Fay's place in the pecking order especially getting up to 2,000m. Rispoli has been aboard Fay Fay finishing well in shorter races and said he believed the gelding had only California Memory to fear at the distance.
"Umberto got the ride when Douglas Whyte rode Real Specialist one day in the same race and then the same situation with Glorious Days. It wasn't Douglas' decision not to ride the horse, I'm happy to keep Umberto on," Size said. "He gets on well with Fay Fay, he understands him and he's done nothing wrong."
Meanwhile, stewards yesterday completed their inquiry into Alvin Ng Ka-chun's handling of Mr Speedy on February 12.
They took no action but cautioned Ng he had ridden an ill-judged race.