Dr Well's win surprises many but not Size
Some punters were calling foul, steward said the horse had 'slipped through the net' but trainer John Size just shrugged and met Dr Well's surprise Queen Mother Memorial Cup victory at Sha Tin yesterday with the same poker face with which he met the gelding's inglorious defeat two weeks ago.
In the worst performance of the gelding's 37-start career, Dr Well had simply dropped out of the 1,800m race won by Super Combed on April 23 to finish a tailed off last - official margin, 'many lengths'.
No veterinary reason was found for the run but stewards stopped short of sending Dr Well back to the trials - the process of which might well have caused him to miss yesterday's race - and when that form was turned upside down to win the Group Three, suddenly the panel wanted answers from Size.
'I told them that I couldn't explain the last run. There was nothing wrong with the horse before or after, he vetted fine. He was a fit, healthy horse so there was no reason why he couldn't run in this race today,' Size said. 'There was no difference in his work. I've still got no explanation for last time.'
But the turnaround as the gelding yesterday defeated Saturn and the other six runners who had thrashed him in the Super Combed race, had the stewards themselves back-pedalling.
'I can't be any more honest and up front than to say that Dr Well slipped through the net,' said chief steward Jamie Stier. 'I want to stress that it is not a rule, not set in concrete, but yes, it is our usual policy that horses beaten by over 20 lengths have to undergo an official vet examination and be competitive in a barrier trial before they race again. But in this case, we did not stipulate that with Dr Well.'
It took the gloss off a well-deserved feature win for Dr Well (Chris Munce) who has - until now - been a particularly consistent galloper.
'When I first started to train him, he didn't show anything,' recalled Size yesterday. 'But his attitude has always been very good and he became very consistent last season as a four-year-old.'
Munce said he was happy in the running after taking a forward place early on, with his only concern the turn out of the straight the first time.
'They eased the pace and he started to get keen, but then Saturn went around the outside to take the running and they got rolling again and he was happy again,' Munce said. 'Horses like him are always a chance in these sorts of races - a light weight, races forward and he stays the 2,400m.'
With Saturn (Weichong Marwing) bowling out in front and looking for his second successive win in the race, Munce tracked up behind the Caspar Fownes-trained stayer and was always confident.
'I was only ever worried by the ones behind me,' he said. 'I thought I had Saturn covered a long way out but I was in no hurry to get past him.'
It was a nice piece of training from Fownes to have Saturn spot on after some indifferent form: 'Still, the horse has run well, at least he's back in top form for the Champions & Chater.'
And Green Treasure also produced a timely run for the Champions & Chater, the final Group One of the season on May 28, carrying 133 pounds into third.