A strong team led by returning sprinter Ivictory has John Size set for another big haul at Sha Tin on Sunday as the reigning champion continues his seemingly unstoppable roll to a 10th championship.
When Size started the season slowly, many thought the 63-year-old was suffering from a hangover after training a record 94 winners in 2016-17.
Of course, Size always starts sluggishly, but this term the fear was the horses that took him to the new high watermark had hit their peak ratings after multiple wins and would now struggle.
That hasn’t been the case as Size’s returning stars have added even more wins and a sprinkling of new talent has pushed the Australian to a double-digit lead in the championship.
A Class Two win on Wednesday with Dinozzo, who backs up on Sunday, lifted Size to 44 victories and an 11-win lead over his former assistant Frankie Lor Fu-chuen.
Now Ivictory, a winner of three from four as a three-year-old, makes his belated seasonal return with an ideal draw in the Class Three Tai Hing Handicap (1,200m).
Ivictory rose to a rating of 75 in his first campaign but was struck down with a left front cannon bone injury in preseason that required two months away from trackwork.
The four-year-old has been given the typically steady Size build-up to his first start back and has done nothing wrong in four barrier trials.
Narrow margins of victory have saved Ivictory from being hammered by the handicapper and the son of Mossman returns with considerable upside.
Adding to the hope he could climb higher is the from around his last start effort, a victory over subsequent Group Three winner Fifty Fifty.
Fifty Fifty has won four from six since that clash and was second to Seasons Bloom in last week’s Group One Stewards’ Cup.
From barrier three, Joao Moreira should have Ivictory close enough on the C course but the gelding has shown an ability to settle well, if the pace is strong, which could happen here with a few front-runners engaged.
Size’s Ping Hai Star (Moreira) registered one of the more impressive Class Three wins of the season last start when he swept from last after blowing the start and now draws gate two in the Class Two Po Tin Handicap (1,400m).
The trainer surprised some when he labelled Ping Hai Star a sprinter and has stayed true to his word by keeping the New Zealand import at the same course and distance.
Ping Hai Star still holds an entry for the BMW Hong Kong Derby though and clashes with Good Standing (Tommy Berry), who needs a strong run here to build fitness and momentum for the big race.
The chances don’t stop there and the strength of the field means Ping Hai Star can’t afford a repeat of the antics that cost him valuable race position last start.
Infinity Endeavour has drawn well again as he steps up in trip for the Class Three Sam Shing Handicap (1,400m) but the sprinter is proving a headache for punters.
The four-year-old is mixing his form this season but based on pedigree, the increase in distance should suit a horse that has won like he can go higher.