Fresh from training his 1,400th winner in Hong Kong in midweek, John Size began the march to 1,500 in some style with a treble at Sha Tin on Sunday.
The 11-time champion trainer has been involved in a tight tussle with his former assistant Frankie Lor Fu-chuen in this season’s trainers’ championship and he ended the meeting one clear of his rival after taking out the last three races on the card.
Early on in proceedings, Size had fallen two winners behind in the title race when Lor struck with Mission Smart but he started to claw back the deficit when Toronado Phantom came out on top in the Class Three Cumberland Handicap (1,200m).
The four-year-old was having his first start on dirt and got the better of a frantic finish, with only a neck separating the first four home.
Toronado Phantom was the only winner on the card for Zac Purton, who was hoping to capitalise on the two-meeting suspension of his rival Joao Moreira but had to settle for a single success.
Size felt that the wet track suited his grey, who was registering his fourth victory in just 12 Hong Kong starts and will now be forced into Class Two company.
“He went through it all right,” Size said. “Like a lot of horses he’s trialled well on it and when that race came up I thought it might suit him.
“His last start at Happy Valley he found it a bit tough and maybe the track was a bit too quick for him. I think he liked the different surface, he fell in but at least he won.”
While Toronado squeezed home in a tight finish, Size’s last two winners never looked like being beaten after hitting the front close to home.
Escape Route came from a long way back to salute in the Class Three Devon Handicap (1,400m), with jockey Karis Teetan following the Blake Shinn recipe for success by coming wide down the straight.
Placed at Group Two level in Britain on softish ground, the four-year-old was saluting for the first time in Hong Kong on his seventh start and his trainer felt the good-to-yielding track played to his strengths.
“He ran well on a wet track last start and then he’s backed it up today, so that’s probably what he’s looking for – a wet track,” Size said.
“He’s not going to get much of that in Hong Kong but while it’s here we’ll take it.”
Alexis Badel just failed to take advantage of Moreira’s ban when finishing a neck second on Running Glory earlier on the card but he helped to complete Size’s treble when steering Brilliant Way to success in the Class Three Cornwall Handicap (1,200m).
Coming hard up against the outside rail, Badel conjured a strong late finish from the three-year-old, who gamely fought past last-start winner Reve Parisien to grab the honours in the final race.