Heavyweight trainers John Size and Caspar Fownes cannot be split after 60 race meetings and the pair go head-to-head again on Thursday night as they look to gain the ascendancy in the coveted title race.
Both Size and Fownes are locked on 54 winners apiece two thirds of the way through the season and look to have plenty of ammunition left in their stables as they prepare for a final tilt.
Size saddles up four runners at the city track while Fownes brings a team of seven as he looks to move ahead at the track he knows best.
Crowned the “King of the Valley”, Fownes brings his Group Three winner Explosive Witness back to the course and distance of three of his four career victories in Hong Kong.
The six-year-old has enjoyed a career-best season to date, notching up three wins and more than HK$4 million in prize money.
He gets his chance again in the Class Two Clementi Handicap (1,000m), which features just eight other runners like Grateful Heart, Shining Ace, Valiant Dream and Flying Genius.
Also included is Size’s Wind N Grass who remarkably lines up for his 12th start of the campaign.
The Irish import, formerly trained by Ger Lyons, has found form of late, winning twice in Class Three before running a creditable fifth in Class Two for the first time.
With champion jockey Zac Purton jumping back aboard Danny Shum Chap-shing’s Grateful Heart, Frenchman Antoine Hamelin has been enlisted to ride Wind N Grass. On top of that, Size will also have Shining Ace in the contest.
The five-year-old enjoyed a dream season last term but has struggled to be as competitive this time around, racing in Class One and Two.
Shum has been the big mover in the trainers’ title, collecting 29 of his 48 winners in 2021 alone.
The veteran handler saddles up four horses on the night as he looks to cut into the six-win deficit and land his first championship.
The 60-year-old has been a regular at the pointy end of the ladder for some time now, but 2020-21 is shaping as one of his best as he looks to kick clear of Frankie Lor Fu-chuen (45 winners) and Francis Lui Kin-wai (44).
Shum has seven unraced horses in his stable while the likes of Lucky Fun and Winner Method look to have plenty of ratings points up their sleeve.
With just two unraced horses in his stable, Fownes will be looking to continue his red-hot form with stable-change acquisitions.
The three-time champion trainer prides himself on his ability to turnaround their form and he has been on the receiving end of a handful of them of late.
Meanwhile, Size has more ammunition than both Fownes and Shum with 11 unraced horses still in his stable.
The 11-time champion handler is renowned for producing progressive youngsters and after an off year last season, 2020-21 has seen him return to his best.