The battle for the trainers’ championship is heating up, with John Size halving Caspar Fownes’ lead after unveiling two smart debutants at Sha Tin on Sunday.
Size snapped a five-meeting drought and now has 67 winners for the campaign, just two behind his rival, following the impressive performances of Blaze Warrior and Dashing Fit.
There are only seven meetings remaining in the season and the fight looks set to go down to the wire with both handlers keen to take the crown.
“We’re just hanging in there and we’ll see what happens. I’ll just do my best,” said Size, who is looking to capture his 12th title and break the deadlock with George Moore to be the leading trainer in Hong Kong racing history.
“They should both pull-up all right, they were both fine going into the race, so they should be OK to race again.”
Blaze Warrior kicked things off for the stable by taking out the Class Four Lido Handicap (1,200m), a reward for patience.
The three-year-old son of Sebring arrived in Hong Kong more than a year ago but Size felt he was too immature to go to the races until Sunday, instead having 14 barrier trials as part of the education process.
It was a particularly good effort considering he was trapped three-wide throughout but he cruised to the front in the straight and still seemed to have plenty in hand as they crossed the line.
“There were no particular problems, it just took him a while to get there and he seems all right now,” Size said. “It was a good run, it seemed like a workmanlike win and he’s done everything well.”
Jockey Joao Moreira was also impressed with Blaze Warrior’s performance.
“We had a good expectation based on his trackwork and barrier trials and thank God he didn’t disgrace,” he said.
“He’s no doubt promising. He’s very green, got a lot to learn and to start off that way has got us excited.”
Dashing Fit followed it up in the very next race, collecting the Class Four Pui O Handicap (1,200m) on the all-weather track.
In a similar vein to Blaze Warrior, Dashing Fit had been in training for a long time before gracing the track – he started work in August – and had 11 trials in the lead-up to his debut.
He was also stuck three-deep in transit, but responded to the urgings of Blake Shinn late to overhaul The Best Hero in the shadows of the post.
“He showed that he liked the surface in his trials and I thought I’d run him there and he got away with it,” Size said. “He can probably perform on the grass but I think for his first win, it was nice work.”
Shinn was full of praise for Dashing Fit and his trainer.
“That was a terrific win. First start on the dirt when the track is wet and slow, it’s not easy to do,” he said.
“He’s trained by the champion trainer John Size, so he’s had a great schooling coming into today and that made my job easier. The horse’s ability carried him through.”
Shinn made it a double with another debutant in the second section of the Class Four Silverstrand Handicap (1,400m) with Dennis Yip Chor-hong’s Bulb Pals overcoming a slow start to fly home and get the chocolates at $40.
The five-year-old first arrived in Hong Kong in August 2019 but a tendon injury had kept him sidelined until Sunday, but he made up for lost time with an impressive showing.