The last time Peniaphobia raced at Group Two level over 1,200m he dominated from in front and jockey Neil Callan believes the Tony Cruz-trained six-year-old can do the same in Sunday’s Group Two Sprint Cup at Sha Tin.
Peniaphobia turned around what had been a mixed start to the season with an all-the-way victory in the Group Two Centenary Sprint Cup.
Although disappointing in a Class One straight race since, Callan says he can sense a repeat performance as the top sprinters in town line up to press claims for next month’s Group One Chairman’s Sprint Prize.
“It looks the same set-up and a similar type field,” Callan said.
Peniaphobia has drawn barrier two of nine but there doesn’t look an abundance of horses capable of matching the gelding’s early speed.
“He doesn’t necessarily have to lead, he just tends to jump quick and put himself there. Like most of Tony’s horses, he doesn’t want them pulled back, which I can understand,” Callan said.
“If he jumps and finds himself in front, I’ll take advantage of it, but if something wants to go fast, I can sit second, no problem. As long as my horse is moving in his own rhythm and he is comfortable, that’s where he will be”
A two-time Group One winner, Peniaphobia seemingly gets in well under the race conditions, carrying the same weight as each of his rivals – none of whom have won at top level in open age company.
The race features the return of the John Size-trained Thewizardofoz, while stablemate Mr Stunning steps up to Group Two company for the first time after an impressive Class One win last start.
Also boosting Callan’s confidence is the fact Peniaphobia beat likely favourite Lucky Bubbles in the Centenary Sprint Cup at level weights at 1,200m.
Both Callan and Cruz believe as Peniaphobia gets older he appreciates more ground and suggested it would pay to forgive the last start failure at 1,000m.
“He was a really good winner of the previous sprint and he beat Lucky Bubbles, he ran 1,000m next time out but as he has got a little bit older he has lost his speed and it wasn’t really that suitable,” Callan said.
“Rather than trialling him it was good for him to have a run and a good blow, so this is his prime target going onto the next one the Group One, so let’s hope he can repeat.”
Callan rides the Cruz-trained stalwart Blazing Speed in the Group Two Chairman’s Trophy after the eight-year-old was just edged out by Werther last start in the Group One Citi Hong Kong Cup.
Although Blazing Speed will probably be unwanted in betting back at a mile, Callan warned that the tough veteran might be ready to spring a surprise.
It has been more than three years since Blazing Speed won the Group One Stewards’ Cup at the distance, but the chestnut did run a cheeky race fresh when first-up and second to Designs On Rome in October’s Group Two Oriental Watch Sha Tin Trophy.
“I just thought that was going to be a stepping stone towards the internationals and he nearly won, so we know he is capable of it,” Callan said.
“Of course the 2,000m and 2,400m races ahead for him are most suitable, but we will just let him jump, see where he is comfortable and then see how he finishes the race off.”