By David Morgan
Neil Callan has summed up Not Listenin’tome’s preparation for an attempted return victory in Saturday’s (1 October) G3 National Day Cup Handicap (1000m) with a statement of plain positivity.
“He’s flying!” the jockey said. And John Moore’s charge has certainly had the look of a horse in fine fettle of late, posting a pleasing barrier trial on 20 September - a strong-travelling second behind the horse likely to prove his biggest threat at the weekend, last year’s G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) hero, Peniaphobia.
“He’s still as good as he was last season,” Callan continued. “When you know you’re struggling to hold the horse, you know he’s good. His last gallop on the dirt track on Saturday - we had Mr Bogart for company - he was very, very strong at the line and that’s the way you want him. John’s trained him to perfection. I think he’s going to rock up and be a big danger to all of them.”
Just like last year, Not Listenin’tome heads into the National Day Cup first-up for the season; but unlike 12 months ago, when he carried 120lb to success, this time he comes in towards the top of the handicap, burdened with 130lb thanks to his current rating of 125, a full 15 points higher than at the same stage in 2015.
“I know he won the race off a much lighter weight last year but he went on and won a Group 3 with 133lb on his back, so carrying the weight is of no issue to him. He’s a very good fast horse,” Callan said.
“When he won this race last year he came from a low draw and was able to clear them all, he has that much natural speed to still be able to sit outside the speed and conserve a bit from halfway to be able to finish off.”
Not Listenin’tome had Peniaphobia seventh in this race 12 months ago - in receipt of 13lb - but was a length behind Tony Cruz’s charge off level weights in the Hong Kong Sprint over 200m farther when December rolled around. Callan believes the straight 1000m might be Not Listenin’tome’s natural game.
“I always felt last season that he just kept getting faster and faster, it was a natural thing,” he said of the three-time course and distance winner. “John was training him perfectly and it was just a natural thing that he started getting faster - 1000 metres seems to be his optimum trip today.
“That’s not to say that once he has a run or two under his belt he can't go on to 1200. Last season he went into the trials towards the Hong Kong Sprint and he ran a close third, so he’s pretty versatile. But right now, he’s going to the right race in the right condition.”
Although Peniaphobia’s standout career win was achieved at 1200m, the Dandy Man five-year-old has scored three times at the course and distance and has made the frame in the G1 Al Quoz Sprint down Meydan’s straight 1000m strip in each of the past two years. The gelding ran third behind Buffering in this year’s edition back in March.
A below-par run in the G1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize (1200m) next time was banished with an impressive display to win the HKG3 Sha Tin Vase Handicap (1200m) in May, holding off runner-up Amazing Kids by a length and a quarter - Not Listenin’tome was an off-the-boil fifth. Peniaphobia conceded 4lb to Amazing Kids that day, and, with top-weight of 133lb on his back this time, the concession will be 7lb.
Cruz was happy with his star sprinter’s recent barrier trial ‘win’ in which the bay showed trademark early dash under Matthew Chadwick and stopped the clock at 58.15s, a half-length advanced of Not Listenin’tome.
“I’m very happy with Peniaphobia,” Cruz confirmed. “There are only seven runners so he’s first three for sure, and even with top-weight he’ll be a big chance.”
The small but select field also features the Ricky Yiu-trained Amber Sky (113lb), once Hong Kong’s straight track king but without a win in 11 starts since the 2014 G1 Al Quoz Sprint in Dubai. He is one pound out of the handicap in this race.
Caspar Fownes is set to saddle the smart Domineer (123lb), a seven-time winner at 1200m on dirt and turf whose only attempt at 1000m produced a seventh-place finish in the HKG3 Bauhinia Sprint Trophy in January this year.
The Dennis Yip-trained All You Wish (113lb) has seven career wins from 1200m to a mile and is 7lb out of the handicap, while the Tony Millard-trained Golden Harvest (113lb) was three lengths fifth in this last year and takes his chance from 14lb out of the handicap.
The National Day races also features the G3 Celebration Cup Handicap (1400m), which has attracted a high-class field of 12. Among the notables set to do battle in this early season clash is last year’s winner, the John Size-trained Contentment, who subsequently landed the G1 Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup (1400m) and will shoulder top-weight of 133lb.
Moore has declared the rising stars Helene Paragon (131lb) and Joyful Trinity (113lb), while the Cruz stable will have four classy contenders, among them Beauty Only (132lb) and Beauty Flame (129lb). Also in the field is Ricky Yiu’s exciting galloper, Packing Pins (129lb).
The exciting 11-race card on National Day commences at 12.30pm with the Class 5 Xian Handicap and concludes with the Class 2 Beijing Handicap at 5.45pm.
Neil Callan steers Not Listenin��tome to an impressive victory in last year��s National Day Cup.