John Size believes his “slow learner” True Grit has what it takes to win three on the trot as he steps up in class on Wednesday night at Happy Valley.
The champion trainer said his lightly raced four-year-old has relished a move to the Conghua training facility in mainland China after falling ill earlier in the season.
True Grit returned from a near six-month lay-off last month with a win and then backed it up five weeks later with a breathtaking swooping victory.
The turnaround came after the son of Wanted was unable to run any better than 10th in his first two career starts.
“He looks good, doesn’t he? He seems to be putting it all together now, he was quite a slow learner earlier in the piece with his trials and even at the races,” Size said. “Now he has worked it out and it looks like he is going to go further.
“He was sick, I think the time off probably helped him, he has got a little bit stronger and he has certainly developed more of an understanding of racing, that is going to stand him in good stead.
“He was one of the horses that went up [to Conghua] quite early and he seems to have adapted.
“When he started to race from there, he ran well so I have left him there and I haven’t changed his location at the moment because there isn’t any reason to do so.”
True Grit will line up in the Class Three Shan Pui River Handicap (1,650m), where he has again drawn an inside barrier.
While he produced a last 400m time far superior to any other 1,650m runner on the night last start, Size said he expects his charge to make his own luck from a closer position this time around.
“He was well back in the field and had plenty of energy to give so he looked impressive in the last 100m so hopefully he can do a similar thing and run well,” he said.
“It looks like a suitable race for him. With the step-up in class, I think he can handle it. If he jumps well and positions up about fourth or third in the run on the C track and gets close to the rail he will probably go close to winning again.”
True Grit is just one of just two horses that the reigning champion will take to the city track on Wednesday night as he looks to stave off a title challenge from John Moore and Frankie Lor Fu-chuen.
With Size and Moore training three and four winners respectively at Sha Tin on Sunday, Lor now finds himself 10 off the pace with 13 meetings to go before the end of the season.
However, Size is sweating on a medical test for stable jockey Joao Moreira who is being treated for illness by the Jockey Club chief medical officer.
The Brazilian has a book of seven rides and a decision on his fitness will be made on Wednesday morning.
Along with True Grit, Moreira is slated to ride Excel Delight for Size, who returns from a six-month break following an underwhelming debut in November.
The three-year-old has trialled five times since his debut run, culminating in a win over Lor’s Class Two winner Flying Thunder.
As a result of the uncertainty over Moreira’s fitness, the Jockey Club has suspended any betting on the Jockey Challenge market until midday Wednesday.
Meanwhile, fellow jockey Keith Yeung Ming-lun has been passed fit to ride at the meeting after being stood down on Sunday.
Yeung missed most of Sunday’s Sha Tin meeting after he was hit with a clump of dirt in the left eye during the first race.