He found one too good in last year’s Group One Hong Kong Sprint (1,200m) but Hot King Prawn could not be in better order as he prepares for his clash with Everest winner Classique Legend on international day next month.
The super-consistent grey was a commanding winner of the Group Two Jockey Club Sprint (1,200m) at Sha Tin on Sunday to confirm he will headline the local hopes against Caspar Fownes’ star import.
“It couldn’t have gone any better. He has proven once again he has got so much class and he won the race with quite a bit of authority,” said jockey Joao Moreira.
“I couldn’t be any happier with him, he’s going to December with the potential to improve and we’ll go to the race with plenty of confidence.”
The John Size-trained Hot King Prawn was runner-up to stablemate Beat The Clock at last year’s Hong Kong International Races and has placed at Group One level three times without winning.
But while top-line sprinters Beat The Clock and Mr Stunning are now retired, Classique Legend’s arrival means the six-year-old could again find himself playing second fiddle.
“He has bumped into very good horses in the past but he didn’t run bad races, he just has finished a short margin behind those good horses. As those big guys are not around any longer, I do believe he might be the one [this year],” Moreira said.
A lot will have to go right for Classique Legend to deliver first-up from his Everest victory in October and in typical fashion, Size is opting to focus on what he can control.
“It’s difficult for me to assess him, you’d have to see him race in Hong Kong and we’d probably get a better guide then,” Size said, adding that he expects big things from Hot King Prawn come December 13.
“I think we’ve still got a chance and my horse seems to be on the right track, so I can’t be any happier with that.
“He only had one start before the international race last year because he had 10 months break after a colic operation, so he was a little bit disadvantaged and he still raced very well. This time he’s probably had a more comfortable preparation.
“He’s covered a little bit of ground and he finished the race off quite nicely, I wouldn’t expect any more. I think he’s still improving and I think he’ll be a bit better on international day.”
It was a gallant victory from Hot King Prawn, who travelled wide throughout but still stopped the clock at 1:08.00 – only half a second outside Sacred Kingdom’s track record, albeit on a surface known for racing quickly at this meeting.
“He’s got a little bit more mature and he hasn’t been showing as much [early] speed as he showed in earlier campaigns but I can’t see that as a bad thing because all we want is to have a strong horse at the finish of the race. He has proven to be that kind of a horse today,” Moreira said.
The Tony Cruz-trained Computer Patch was three quarters of a length away in second after jumping the $2.30 favourite, while Richard Gibson’s Rattan stormed home from last after missing the kick to finish third.
Hot King Prawn will likely be one of three Size runners come international day, as well as Champion’s Way and Waikuku, who will tackle the Hong Kong Mile first-up after trialling for the first time this season on Thursday.
“He’s been doing OK, he’s behind schedule obviously but he’ll have another trial and all being well he’ll go into the race first-up,” Size said of reigning Group One Stewards’ Cup victor Waikuku.