Master trainer John Size believes there is more in the tank for his boom sprinter Hot King Prawn ahead of his toughest test yet.
The powerful grey is the warm favourite in Sunday’s Group One Longines Hong Kong Sprint after ticking every box in his preparation – he has three wins from three starts – however Size believes his lightly raced four-year-old will only get better.
“Now that he is four, normally in Hong Kong, they become a little bit stronger as a four-year-old and he’s done that this season, he is certainly stronger and a better horse for his age,” he said.
“The progress he has made this season has been quite pleasing, he has managed to come up to the mark in races where he had to improve to win.
“That’s what his strike rate tells you [that there is improvement], winning nine out of 10, that means there is still improvement, there has to be some more there so it wouldn’t surprise me if he continued to make further steps.”
Hot King Prawn’s rating has rocketed from 68 to 126 in the space of seven starts, cementing himself as one of Hong Kong’s pin-up horses.
With talent to burn, Size has been understandably conservative with the potential superstar, allowing him to develop at his own pace.
“He has picked his way through the races over the last couple of years, even though he is only lightly raced, he has a very good record,” he said.
“He was lightly raced as a three-year-old and that was a determined effort because they can come up in class a little bit too quickly in Hong Kong.”
Even with his explosive front-running style, Hot King Prawn will be hampered by a wide draw after his connections drew barrier 11, setting up a potential speed battle with a number of other horses drawn inside of him.
With four horses in the 12 strong field, Size holds the aces in the race with Group One winners D B Pin and Ivictory lining up alongside the consistent Beat The Clock.
Hot King Prawn makes it nine wins from ten starts with a dynamic all-the-way success in the BOCHK Jockey Club Sprint: Joao Moreira dictates even fractions on the winner, who finds just enough to hold the late surge of Mr Stunning. #HKracing pic.twitter.com/wPwbSfRkCH— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) November 18, 2018
While they have different racing patterns, it is D B Pin who looks set to have the run of the race after drawing the sought after barrier two, allowing him to more than likely take up a forward position on the rail.
Rival jockey Karis Teetan, who will ride second favourite Mr Stunning, remains confident he can upset the Size juggernaut despite drawing barrier nine.
After running an unlucky second to Hot King Prawn in last month’s Group Two Jockey Club Sprint (1,200m), Teetan believes he can turn the tables on the big day, where he will meet his rival five pounds better.
Teetan said while he was happy to have Hot King Prawn drawn outside him, he would not attempt to kick up in running just to stop the race fancy from getting a favourable position.
“Mr Stunning, when those gates open, he does ping away and gets a few lengths on them, so I think it’s a good thing that I have Hot King Prawn on my outside, if he was drawn inside I would be worried,” he said.
“I am going to stay positive because I know I have the horse underneath me, so it’s OK. I will not try to keep him out because it will only cost me. I will have to speak to [trainer] Frankie [Lor Fu-chuen] to see what the plan is but I will be riding him with a lot of confidence and positivity.”