Champion trainer John Size says his four runners are all in great shape for Sunday’s important Group Two Premier Bowl at Sha Tin but he isn’t take anything for granted despite his numerical advantage.
Size saddles up Hong Kong’s two top-rated horses, Thewizardofoz and Mr Stunning, in the 1,200m feature, ably assisted by Amazing Kids and D B Pin and the Australian handler has quietly assumed the role of the leading trainer of sprinters over the past 18 months, at least in numbers.
The yield has not quite lived up to that yet, with three Group Threes and a Group Two last season, but the Premier Bowl has had significance as a Group One pointer in the past and a guide to the December internationals.
The Premier Bowl was the race from which Absolute Champion emerged as a star, taking the Hong Kong Sprint next start; Aerovelocity also won the double and Lucky Bubbles was unlucky not to 12 months ago. Even Size’s 64-1 winner in 2011, Rich Unicorn, surprised again with a close fourth on international day.
“I’m really happy with how all four are going. They are at different stages of their preparations, some have had a race and Thewizardofoz hasn’t, but I can’t fault them,” he said.
“Mr Stunning looks like he has come on for his first run back, D B Pin has been his usual self and I think Amazing Kids has improved.
“He wasn’t as fit as the others first-up but didn’t finish far from them. He didn’t catch the eye in the trial since but that’s him. He just does what he wants to do and never gives you much of a guide on the dirt, but he is different on race day.”
And then there’s Thewizardofoz, who finished last season with a sensational Group Three win, has had three barrier trials and was actually asked to do something by Joao Moreira last Friday with a sharp mid-trial move before running second to Mr Stunning.
“Thewizard is quite a gross horse, he’s not skinny. So, even with a few trials, he will be improving with racing,” Size said.
“He did a bit in the trial because I think Joao wanted to get around some slower ones in front of him that weren’t taking him anywhere. For his target, I’m leaning towards the Hong Kong Sprint but let’s have a look at him in his races and see.”
Size’s armoury of stars will almost all be on show on Sunday, with rising unbeaten talent Nothingilikemore returning after an impressive three-year-old campaign, and the only absentee is dual Group One winner Contentment.
A fixture in the top mile races for the past two seasons, Contentment resumed poorly with a ninth in the Celebration Cup and Size has backed off him.
“He seemed a bit tired and listless, which might be a hangover from the trip to the Yasuda Kinen in Japan so I’ve given him some time off,” Size said. “He will be back working again in 10 days and we’ll see how he progresses from there.”
As for nominal Classic Mile favourite Nothingilikemore, Size has no path to that race mapped out: “We have to see what happens in his first-up run because, if he wins, he will be in a different class and, if he doesn’t, he’ll still be in Class Two, so there’s no point programming his next one until we know what he’s eligible for.
“But he has had a long enough break – it’s six months since he ran and that’s probably even a bit too long, so I wanted to get him going. I’ll be guided by him but he’ll probably want a couple of runs before the Classic Mile early next year and, at some point, we’ll see if he can run a mile. We don’t really know that much about what he can do yet after just four starts.”