Even for a traditionally slow beginner like John Size, the seven-time champion handler has left the blocks even too tardily for his liking this season but a four-win haul at Sha Tin went some way to addressing it.
Easy Hedge, Dehere's The Love and So Fast provided a large portion of Joao Moreira's five-timer, while Brett Prebble did the honours on Silly Buddies in the day's trophy race, and Size's tally was "looking more respectable" as he moved to 14 wins and three off the top of a crowded leaderboard.
"It could have been better as I did have two short priced favourites that were placed but didn't win, but at least that looks a bit more respectable," Size observed. "I've trained more than 60 winners the past three seasons and the way the cycles go here, that catches up with you at some point and you go through a slow period and, yes, the start of this season has been slow for my stable even compared to how it would normally be. Hopefully we're over that and can keep the results coming now."
Size sent out the shortest-priced favourite of the day in Easy Hedge, despite admitting that the 1,400m race wasn't really what the horse was wanting.
"I thought before his first run that he was going to want 2,000m and he really just ground away that day to run third so 1,400m a second time was a bit of a risk," he said. "But I saw this restricted race in the programme and there wasn't a lot of form in it so that placing made him well-graded and I thought I'd run him. He got away with it over an unsuitable distance but it wasn't that easy."
Dirt winners Dehere's The Love and Silly Buddies made the best of good draws to win at their first starts for the season and Size said it had been a case of waiting for a suitable race.
"Silly Buddies is better on the dirt and Dehere's The Love is a specialist on it and quite highly rated so he doesn't have many options, and with both of them it was a case of keeping them ticking along until the programme provided a chance for them," Size explained.
"Especially with Dehere's The Love on a 96 rating, it was obvious months ago that this would have to be his race, and we had to be patient but he had trained well at home and brought it here today. We were lucky they both drew well and got lovely runs through their races and were able to show what they could do."
So Fast has had several bad barriers that had caused his defeats at 1,200m and again drew poorly going to 1,400m but had the speed to get across after being used early then only scraped home. Size was less than impressed.
"He was workmanlike rather than impressive and the only real improvement I see in him now is perhaps when he does draw better," Size said. "But he's had a few starts and is a four-year-old, so I don't think he's promising to go spiralling up through the ratings."