Perhaps it was appropriate that John Size’s 1,100th Hong Kong winner was as understated as the man himself but even if the trainer was treating it as just another race, jockey Olivier Doleuze made sure the milestone was mentioned.
Five Stars Agent’s Class Five win in the opening race of the all-dirt meeting at Sha Tin made Size the third trainer, along with John Moore and Tony Cruz, to have trained 1,100 winners and he is closing on those two rivals fast.
“It’s a great achievement and you know what, every winner in Hong Kong is worth celebrating, it’s a tough place to win – so to have that many is extraordinary,” said Doleuze, with the Frenchman having shared a recent Group One success with Size aboard D B Pin in the recent Centenary Sprint Cup.
However, Five Stars Agent was close to 100 ratings points shy of his stablemate heading into Wednesday night’s race.
John Size brings up his 1100th Hong Kong win with Five Stars Agent in R1 at Sha Tin. Only the third trainer after John Moore (1586) and Tony Cruz (1141) to have reached that mark #HKRacing pic.twitter.com/BUhRDMDHSe— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) February 28, 2018
“But as I said, they all count, and horses like him all get their chance to win, it’s just about being in the right place at the right time,” Doleuze said.
Size continued his stellar season with a second winner when Remarkable (Joao Moreira) broke through with a light weight in Class Four, a start after dipping his toe into the bottom grade.
“He showed with that third last start that he needed the distance and he is a fitter horse now, he jumped really well tonight and finished it off,” said Moreira, who also had some congratulatory words for Size. “Great trainers achieve those types of things and he is one of the best.”
Size shared the training honours on the night with Danny Shum Chap-shing who called for more high-class dirt races to be added to the calendar after Pick Number One (Zac Purton) completed a stable double with a fourth win on the surface.
“Why not? A winner is a winner, it’s not like we go and try and buy a dirt horse, but there are so many horses here that get high in the ratings on dirt that just cannot handle turf,” he said.
“When they run in the turf races they just cannot compete. This horse is now in Class Two and it’s going to be very difficult to find many races for him. I have to thank the owner with this horse, he has allowed me to be very patient. He is a big horse, well over 1,200 pounds, and still a three-year-old, I have had to be very careful with him.”
Pick Number One may have already exceeded expectations but Shum admitted his first winner, Travel Emperor (Purton), is never likely to reach the heights once expected of him.
“He has been disappointing really, when he won first-up late last season we thought he was a Class Two horse – at least, maybe a Group horse,” Shum said of the HK$7.2 million Hong Kong International Sales purchase. “There isn’t any physical problem with him, he is just a little bit scared in races and he still doesn’t know what to do. We will probably stay on the dirt with him.”
Frankie Lor Fu-chuen kept his incredible rookie season going when Dr Win Win edged Nuclear Power in a photo but the trainer fears finding options for the five-year-old will now be difficult.
It was Dr Win Win’s second win by a head margin this term and while the first of those was at Happy Valley, Lor said the Irish-bred gelding’s best chance of success up in grade is on the all-weather track.
“He goes into Class Two now and I don’t think he can beat those horses on the turf,” Lor said. “And the competition is pretty good on dirt too, but that will be his best chance. We are happy for the owners to get two wins, when he came to us from Caspar [Fownes] we heard he was crazy so the first thing we did was get him gelded and that has made a big difference.”
Richard Gibson paid tribute to Jockey Club vets for getting winner Amazing Feeling back on track after fetlock chips kept the one-time winner out of training late last season.
As far as the race was concerned, Gibson gave top marks to jockey Neil Callan, but admitted “we got lucky”.
“To be honest some of the other jockeys made some mistakes – the way the race was run gave us a better chance,” he said. “Neil rode a smart race, sitting in behind and then pushing through when he needed to.”
Apprentice Matthew Poon Ming-fai copped a two-meeting suspension and HK$37,500 fine for his ride on Storm Signal in the last race.