Neil Callan says Peniaphobia is ready for his rematch with Mr Stunning in Sunday’s Group One Chairman’s Sprint Prize and the jockey insists he doesn’t need to lead to win on the Tony Cruz-trained front-runner.
Peniaphobia’s best performances at 1,200m have been when burning along in front, with wins in the 2015 Group One Hong Kong Sprint, the 2016 Group Three Sha Tin Vase and this year’s Group Two Centenary Sprint Cup all achieved that way.
Last start, Peniaphobia went within half a length of another wire-to-wire effort, only to be gunned down by rising star Mr Stunning, who had been given a saloon passage along the rails and nabbed Callan’s horse late.
Callan should have the option of leading on Peniaphobia from gate five, but the Irish jockey said his six-year-old isn’t as one dimensional as most people think.
“He’ll jump and do his thing – I’ll just throw the reins at him and if they leave him alone in front, fine,” Callan said. “But if they’re going a million miles an hour and taking him on, well then they’re going too fast. He’s come from off the speed and he’s made the running, so it doesn’t matter.
“He’s a very straightforward horse. As long as you can just drop hands on him and let him dictate his own rhythm, rather than push or pull him, I think that’s when he’s at his best.”
Even though Peniaphobia was pressured in the run last start by Dashing Fellow, Callan admits Mr Stunning “beat me fair and square”, although repeating that type of effort is now the challenge for the younger horse.
“Mr Stunning has to come out and prove it again, whereas my horse has been there and done it and he’s done it many times over,” he said.
Even Mr Stunning’s trainer John Size admits his four-year-old faces a different challenge this time, having produced what looked to be a peak performance in a race where he got plenty of favours.
“It’s probably a similar test to the last one for Mr Stunning, he had a lot of luck, it was a very lucky race for him and he was able to capitalise on that. That’s probably the best run of his career and whether he can repeat that is up to him,” he said.
Mr Stunning looms as the likely race favourite, having won seven of 10 and drawn a plum inside gate (four) for leading jockey Joao Moreira.
Size will be “doing a John Moore”, providing four runners for the sprint feature, which for the second year straight overshadows the Group One Champions Mile for overall quality and competitiveness.
Thewizardofoz (Chad Schofield), Amazing Kids (Brett Prebble) and Sun Jewellery (Karis Teetan) round out Size’s team as the master trainer tries to win a first Group One for the season.
The forgotten horse could be Lucky Bubbles, second to Chautauqua in this race last year and a winner first-up in the Group Two Premier Bowl, but the five-year-old hasn’t won since.
In an effort to spark a turnaround, trainer Francis Lui Kin-wai has changed jockeys, replacing Brett Prebble with Hugh Bowman.
“It was a very difficult decision to make,” Lui said. “I can’t say Brett did anything wrong, not at all. We just thought a change might help the horse.
“We just wanted to try to do something different, a new style. Brett knows this horse very well, he would ride him in track work almost every day and we thought that just maybe if we freshen things up, try something new, it might remind the horse – just wake up the horse a bit.”