Champion local trainer John Size doesn’t have the best of memories from past Longines Hong Kong International Race meetings, although he produced one of the great training performances to win the Mile with Glorious Days at his first start for six months.
Size has saddled up a number of favourites in the Mile in particular and come away with a string of seconds, some unlucky and none more so than his star Electronic Unicorn in 2002.
Most go the barrier draw hoping for gate one but that year Size declared he’d be happy with almost anything except one for Electronic Unicorn – out it came, and cost him the race.
So, with the trainer heading to Sunday’s big events with what he sees as a handful of underdogs, Thursday’s kind draws were a masterpiece of poor timing.
“That usually doesn’t happen – they mustn’t have much hope!” the laconic handler grimaced after Amazing Kids (barrier seven in the Sprint), Eastern Express (two in the Vase) and Mile runners Sun Jewellery (three) and Contentment (six), all pulled low gates.
Size’s race over the years has tended to be the Mile and he has a pair of very honest and worthwhile chances on Sunday.
“Contentment is very straightforward, makes his own luck on the speed and he never does much wrong,” he said.
“I know his jockey, Brett Prebble, feels he hasn’t been running to his best but I can’t find anything wrong with him at home so we keep taking him to the races and he wasn’t beaten far in the lead-up.
“Sun Jewellery is a Group One winner against his own age and it’s tougher against open ages but he has some more rating improvement left in him. He was very fresh first-up then improved a lot to run very competitively in the main lead-up for third and he’s fitter now.”
Staying-bred Eastern Express gets his baptism of fire over 2,400m against highly accomplished stayers in the Vase and there is the danger it is all happening too quickly, but Size shrugs.
“Eastern Express was a very late foal so everything comes too soon. The Derby was too soon, this race is too soon but we get few opportunities to run at 2,400m so we have to try him, even if he’s eligible for much easier races domestically,” Size said.
“And you have to remember that, although he has been behind, there will come a time where he is catching up to the more mature horses and they will have peaked and then he will come into his own.”
But he reserves his greatest (underdog) confidence for Amazing Kids, a rising star last season who should have been much closer in his last crack at this kind of company when severe interference prevented him finishing closer than fifth to Chautauqua in May.
“He looked fairly ordinary last start but had a pretty demanding race the previous run and I think that might have taken a bit out of him,” Size explained.
“That’s the idea I’m working with anyway. This looks a fast race, which will suit him, and hopefully he can get back to his better form and be getting into it late as the leaders are tiring.
“I’m not expecting to win one but I do think I can get some prizemoney and the Hong Kong horses usually get their best chance in the Sprint so it’s probably my best chance too.”