Joao Moreira faces a tough decision between Thewizardofoz and Mr Stunning in next week’s Group Two Sprint Cup after the John Size-trained speed machines produced sensational trials this week.
Thewizardofoz has been a bogey horse for Moreira and punters alike, but his raw talent cannot be ignored.
The regally bred gelding stormed through the grades to reach triple figures at his sixth start and won in Class One, but has faltered at top level thus far.
There have been excuses, it looked a no brainer that “Thewiz” would get a mile or further, being out of champion New Zealand mare Princess Coup, but he didn’t get the trip in the 2016 Hong Kong Classic Mile.
Since then a combination of issues including lameness and a scoping with blood on trachea have held the five-year-old back – but the jury is certainly out.
Does Moreira give up on the enigmatic talent and go with Mr Stunning? He looms as another well-bred talent, but a year younger that has followed a similar early career trajectory to his stablemate.
Relatively narrow winning margins meant it took a little longer for Mr Stunning to hit Class One but once he did, the son of Exceed And Excel proved he belonged.
A last start romp against some quality opposition, including some established Group One performers, oozed class – even if Mr Stunning was entitled to win with the weight edge he had at handicap level.
Mr Stunning now sits seven points higher in the ratings than Thewizardofoz and that edge might be enough to convince Moreira to lean his way when the two meet at level weights next Sunday.
Tuesday’s 1,200m hit out against some top opposition was the best of Thewzizardofoz’s four trials since an early season failure in the Group Two Premier Bowl and subsequent spell at Beas River.
Interestingly, Mr Stunning was allowed to settle back in a later 1,050m trial and hit the line full of running, which could be a hint at the tactics when the compact gelding steps back up to 1,200m.
It’s hard to pick holes in Mr Stunning’s record of six wins from nine starts, but if there is a chink in his armour it is over 1,200m at Sha Tin, where he has suffered his only defeats.
Even if the decision between Size’s two sprinters is tricky one for Moreira, this week’s trials made one thing abundantly clear, Size should race away to claim a ninth championship.
Not only did Thewizardofoz and Mr Stunning trial exceptionally well, but a trio of three-year-olds that have reached Class Two already stood out.
Nothingilikemore, D B Pin and Premiere served reminders that they have more to offer this term – even if their trainer will be cautious with his approach.
Size faces a tough scheduling with the trio, and particularly unbeaten youngster Nothingilikemore.
The son of Husson has leapt a total of 37 ratings points through three dominant victories but Size is usually reluctant to race three-year-olds against older horses in Class Two.
D B Pin (Zac Purton) was solid on Tuesday and as a four-year-old will probably be given more latitude after winning four from five this season.
Nothingilikemore (Moreira) and Premiere (Karis Teetan), also three, put in nice dirt displays on Friday.