Two trainers at different ends of the championship table head into the meeting at Sha Tin on Saturday with high hopes of coming away with at least one winner.
John Size heads the trainers’ premiership with 47 winners after hitting a purple patch of form and runs Sight Spirit on dirt for the first time, while Richard Gibson – who has saluted just eight times this season – unleashes Navas Two over a mile for the first time.
Size has saddled 17 winners since the start of January to usurp Frankie Lor Fu-chuen at the top of the table and is clearly delighted with the way his horses have been running.
“The last three months have been good, we’ve been able to win quite a few races and the horses have come on pretty well.” Size said.
He's very, very good! 2021 Hong Kong International Sale graduate Romantic Warrior - handpicked by @MichaelJkinane - proved far too strong in the Hong Kong Classic Mile under @KarisTeetan. 🔥 #4YOSeries #HKracing pic.twitter.com/1Xg7BGeAtF— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) January 30, 2022
Sight Spirit’s three-race winning streak was ended when he finished sixth after taking on some of the leading four-year-olds in the Classic Mile last time and Size is keen to see how he fares on the dirt in the Class Three Orchid Handicap (1,650m).
“He’s trialled all right on the track and there’s a race available, so I’ll race him on it and see if he can cope with it,” Size said.
Sight Spirit’s pedigree lends some hope to him making a successful transition to dirt, with his sire Toronado boasting a 14.3 per cent strike-rate (68 winners from 477 runners) on non-turf tracks in Britain and punters would have made a level-stakes profit from backing all his runners on all-weather surfaces.
The Classic Cup had been mentioned as a possible target for Sight Spirit but Size was keen to play down that possibility.
“I’m not sure if he’ll go there, we’ll just leave that for a minute and see how he runs on Saturday,” Size said.
Pins Prince is also in action for Size in the Class Three Peony Handicap (1,200m) but he has been handed a difficult draw in stall 12.
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“I think he’ll probably run well,” Size said. “He’s got a bit of an awkward gate but it looks like there’s plenty of speed in the race, so hopefully he’s not trapped too wide and with more pressure in the race he might like that. We have to go up in class to find out.”
While Pins Prince goes up in class for Size, Gibson’s star runner on the card goes up in trip.
Rated the best four-year-old private purchase in Hong Kong after Romantic Warrior by Gibson, Navas Two has recorded a hat-trick of wins over 1,400m but steps up to a mile for the first time in the Class Two Rose Handicap.
“I like taking it one step at a time so we’ll just see how he goes over the mile,” Gibson said. “I’ve got slight reservations over his stamina so we’ll see how he copes with the outside draw over the mile.”
Ruan Maia has struck up a good relationship with Navas Two and Gibson has never been tempted to replace the Brazilian with a more high-profile jockey.
“It’s pretty rare in Hong Kong that these guys can do the light weights as well, so it’s worked out well for him,” Gibson said.
“Plenty of the big jockeys want the ride but he definitely deserves to stay with the horse because he rides him very well.”