Some had doubted Mr Stunning was deserving of his status as Hong Kong’s equal highest-rated horse but the five-year-old laid down a marker with a big win in Sunday’s Group Two Premier Bowl that left no question about who the number one seed is among sprinters.
Mr Stunning was a Group Two winner late last season, but has yet to win at top level, leading many to question why the John Size-trained speedster was rated higher than the horse who beat him at Group One level last season, Lucky Bubbles.
That Group One win can’t be far away though after Mr Stunning lumped top weight against a top field, unleashing a big sprint to beat Lucky Bubbles and stablemate Amazing Kids.
Size was at his circumspect best post-race but admitted that “it looked like the best performance” of Mr Stunning’s 14-start career.
“He won carrying weight, it can be deceptive in handicaps because the good horses can win with the big weight,” Size said.
Mr Stunning’s performance confirmed his quality, but Nash Rawiller’s ride was still flawless, the Australian settling the sprinter back, getting a three-wide trail into the straight on the back of stablemate D B Pin.
“It worked out perfectly, he took us right into the race,” Rawiller said. “I didn’t have to do anything out of the ordinary, just get him into rhythm, get some cover and I jumped into the three-wide line at the 600m mark.
“I was able to come off the bend, wait behind D B Pin but still be gaining momentum. I couldn’t help but be impressed with the feeling he gave me going to the line though.”
Size suggested the way Mr Stunning was ridden and finished off might have unlocked a tactical key for the horse heading towards the big races.
“He is probably better ridden back in the field and I don’t think as good when he’s too far forward,” Size said. “The circumstances were good, he had a horse to follow. He was able to get behind the speed and things worked out well for him.”
Now Mr Stunning comes back to set weights and penalties, where he will meet Lucky Bubbles six pounds better off and meet the rest of his rivals at level weights in the Group Two Jockey Club Mile.
There is still hope for the beaten runners though, jockey Zac Purton pleased with the way Lucky Bubbles finished off.
“He hit the line well,” Purton said. “I was in an awkward spot, he was just a little bit held up. The horses in front of us weren’t going anywhere and I had to change course. The wide barrier cost us in the end and a better gate might have been the difference.”
Mr Stunning’s stablemate Amazing Kids (Brett Prebble), one of four Size-trained runners in the race, made a welcome return to form.
“He had to go back and it’s hard to come from there, he made a long sustained run but probably petered out over the last 100m,” Prebble said.
“At one stage I thought he would win. He gives an awesome feeling for 150 to 200 metres and if he can sustain that when he’s fit, then he’ll raise the bar.”
Size’s sprinter Thewizardofoz – who carried equal top rating with Mr Stunning coming into the race – was a flat ninth.
“He was a little disappointing, but I wouldn’t give up on him,” jockey Joao Moreira said. “Maybe he just needs a run to get going and get back to his best.”