The HK$10 million Classic Mile has been a hoodoo race for trainer John Size, but the seven-time champion trainer says even that shocking record is not dimming his enthusiasm for saddling up the two dominant favourites in Sunday’s edition, Thewizardofoz and Sun Jewellery.
Three times in the past 11 years, Size has sent out the beaten short-priced favourite in the first of the four-year-old classics, he has yet to win the race and there is every chance he will dominate the betting, especially with Joao Moreira (Thewizardofoz) and Ryan Moore (Sun Jewellery) aboard his runners.
“No, it’s a race I haven’t won yet but, on the other side of the coin, quite a few of the ones that have been beaten in the Classic Mile did justify their place in the race later on,” Size said.
“Fay Fay was just beaten as an odds-on favourite in this race, but he went on to win the Derby. Last year, Thunder Fantasy came out and won the Classic Cup over 1,800m at long odds next run and that was the case too with It Has To Be You and Unique Jewellery. So they were heroes eventually, just not in this particular race.”
His ill-luck in the Classic Mile extends even beyond the ones who lined up, as well-fancied Super Kid (2004) and Luger (2015) had to miss the race after being sidelined with illness.
“In those days, the 1,800m race didn’t exist and the Classic Mile was a month before the Derby.
“Super Kid’s run before the Classic Mile was the Stewards’ Cup, which he had won, so he was going to be a favourite for this race back against his own age, but he got a temperature and missed running, and missed the Derby as well,” Size recalled.
“And Luger, well, everyone knows that he’d had the heart irregularity earlier last season, but then he got going again in preparation for this race and on Christmas Day he got a fever and that was that.”
Luger recovered to win the Derby last year on a limited preparation and Super Kid took out the Champions & Chater Cup later in his season, beating Size’s QE II Cup winner, River Dancer.
Quality horses all and Size believes his pair on Sunday are certainly good enough to put the Classic Mile record straight before stretching out further in distance.
“It’s hard to pick a flaw in either horse. They’re both fit, healthy and sound,” he said yesterday. “They have good habits in races, they’ve got the speed to get themselves into a position or to get themselves out of trouble. I’m not too concerned with the draws, even Sun Jewellery in the outside gate – he’s got speed and he’d handle racing without cover.
“They are both untried at a mile, but the other favourites are in the same boat and that’s how everyone approaches these races – you run and you learn more, and you go forward from there.
“I don’t think either is just a sprinter, I have an open mind on them as stayers and we’ll press on towards the Derby unless one of the jockeys gets off and says don’t go any further.”
And even the talk of Sun Jewellery’s breathing “problem” is waved away by the Australian.
“He has a throat issue, but he’s always had it, even when he raced in Australia,” he said.
“It didn’t bother him there and hasn’t come against him here either. It might one day, but it hasn’t yet.
“Just about every horse has something he has to deal with and it is more about how they manage it in their races, and Sun Jewellery has managed with this so far. He’s already a winner in Class One, which I couldn’t say about any of the other horses I’ve had run in the Classic Mile.”