The reigning champion trainer flexed his stable muscle at Sha Tin on Sunday as John Size produced not one but three unexplored horses to win in ways that earmarked them for something much better down the track.
Three-year-old Hot King Prawn led the charge with a comfortable victory resuming for the season in Class Three down the straight, keeping his unbeaten record intact, while debutant Conte (Joao Moreira) began a potential picket fence of his own half an hour later.
Time To Celebrate (Moreira) didn’t have an unbeaten record to protect but did improve enough on his local debut eighth to sit wide and win the 1,400m Class Three, and the gelding will be asked some serious questions in the months ahead.
“Probably this was a track where you could do that today but he covered ground and kept on well and he looks like he might run a mile,” said Size. “It was pleasing to see Hot King Prawn come back, he was a dominant favourite so I guess no one was doubting him, and Conte did as much as a horse can do going to the races the first time.”
Moreira was excited by the racecourse debut of the big Starcraft gelding Conte after the four-year-old disposed of his Class Four opposition easily.
“I think 1,200m was not his distance, he seems a miler, so we didn’t see his best today and he will improve,” said the Brazilian.
“The outside barrier I didn’t see as a bad thing. He’s a big-striding, momentum horse and you don’t want to break his stride so it was easier to just use his own speed from outside and keep running rather than getting behind horses. What I like is that he turned the corner and I gave him a tap on the shoulder and he accelerated.
“He has everything you’d want – he has a good temper, he’s got size and he’s got Size and, when he strides, he covers so much ground the others need two to his one.”
Size agreed that Conte’s future will not be over 1,200m but for Hot King Prawn it might be the next frontier.
The three-year-old has won three from three down the straight but Size said that was merely convenience.
“Those races have suited him, right time and place, and the programme will determine where he goes next as well, but I don’t think he’s only a 1,000m horse,” he said. “If the programme throws up the right 1,200m race then maybe I’d give a spin around a bend.”
Time To Celebrate did it the hard way and Moreira said he showed a “bit of class” to keep going and win a race marked by sensations, from the scratching of All You Need, who had blood pouring from a tongue wound at the start, to the collapse of Malmsteen in the straight that necessitated apprentice Jack Wong Ho-nam being taken to hospital complaining of pain in his lower back.