John Size plots Glorious moment in Hong Kong Mile
A bridesmaid in the feature four times, master trainer is unconcerned last year's runner-up hasn't raced for 189 days
In Glorious Days' absence from the lead-up scene, it has been easy to forget he is still the ranking miler in town and, typically, John Size isn't overburdened by the prospect of producing one of the great training performances of the HK$20 million Longines Hong Kong Mile if successful.
Arguably the greatest was at Size's expense in 2002, when an unlucky Electronic Unicorn was beaten by Ivan Allan's Olympic Express, readied on a bath full of ice and half a 1,000m race in seven months after he eased down to walk across the line a distant last in his prep run.
That was one of Size's four second placings in a race that has frustrated him, the latest with Glorious Days behind Ambitious Dragon last year.
With "The Dragon" missing through injury, the lead-up in 2013 should have belonged to Glorious Days but Size was forced to abort the early part of his preparation.
Now he must be the first horse to win a Hong Kong international - any of them - at his first start for 189 days. J J The Jet Plane won the Sprint in 2010 after a circuitous, quarantine-demanded path from South Africa through England that left him without a race for 147 days.
For Glorious Days, the task is 1,600m, not 1,200m. And Size is taking it in his stride.
"If you'd asked me during the summer, yes, I'd have preferred to run him and win a race before the Mile but, as things went, that wasn't going to happen," he said yesterday.
"The horse came back into work at the start of the season and just wasn't doing well. Maybe it was something in his head, maybe he hadn't had a long enough holiday after Japan. I don't know what it was, but it was something because he didn't look good, couldn't keep weight on and he was distracted.
"There was nothing I could do, I just had to give him more time and wait for him. So I did, and I'm going into the race happy that I did.
"In a way, it wasn't a choice, I had no choice, but six weeks ago I started to have some confidence that he would make it and, as he's got closer to this race, nothing has gone amiss and there has been nothing to worry about."
If the decision had been forced on him, Size says that was made easier by the knowledge that tackling a mile first-up was within the horse's compass.
"Last year, he ran first-up at a mile and it took Ambitious Dragon to beat him and that was before I put the blinkers on him that turned the tables next time," Size recalls. "Glorious Days has already shown that he can run a good mile first-up."
The unusual campaign path has allowed Size the luxury of seeing at least the local opposition in the lead-up races and assessing where Glorious Days fits, especially as his other Mile runner, Real Specialist, has been in the thick of that action against Gold-Fun, Helene Spirit & Co.
"I haven't seen anything that has dented my confidence. The local horses have been hard to beat in this race for a while, and Ambitious Dragon was the horse that had us all covered," Size said.
"We are going on last season's form and I suppose if Glorious Days was racing we'd know if that is the form now, but Real Specialist is competing okay with them and Glorious Days has always had a little margin on him.
"Horses that are racing and in form, on paper they probably have an advantage, but then Glorious Days has fresh legs, so there are two sides to that. I can't be too concerned. I'm happy how it has evolved and if he repeats at the races what he is doing at home, he'll be there."