By Andrew Hawkins
Few horses have won as impressively this season as Nothingilikemore did last start, and trainer John Size hopes that the three-year-old can continue his progression with a third win from three outings in the Class 3 Geranium Handicap (1400m) at Sha Tin on Sunday (12 March).
“I don’t always want them to win as easily as he did last start because it isn’t always a good thing,” Size said at Sha Tin trackwork on Friday morning. “The visual was quite exciting, we will see if he can repeat that and go on with it. The horse is fine, he’s healthy, he’s sound, he’s done well, he looks good so now we go back to the races and see if he can continue.”
Nothingilikemore debuted with an exciting Class 4 win over 1200m on 22 January, coming from near the tail to record an effortless two and a quarter length victory under Ryan Moore.
However, it was his second start up in Class 3 on 19 February which stamped him as a horse of the future. Under Joao Moreira, he pushed across to the lead from gate 13, recording the fastest first sectional (13.37s) and the second-fastest second sectional (21.78s) of the 1400m contest. When the Brazilian asked the Husson gelding to extend in the straight, he opened up to score by five lengths, also recording the fastest final sectional (22.62s) for a slick overall time of 1m 21.36s.
“He did everything correctly the second day,” Size said. “The first time, little things didn’t go right for him at the start and he got back a little too far. The next time, he was drawn out wide, he had no horses around him, he was able to show his speed and he got very comfortable on the lead which allowed him to finish the race off.”
Nothingilikemore was given a 14-point increase in his rating for his last win, rising from 62 to 76. Under Sunday’s weight scale, the bay hauls 129 pounds with Moreira to ride again, having only carried 117 pounds last time out.
Size also says that, despite the galloper’s proven tactical versatility, he believes the best option will be to ride him similarly to last start.
“I think we’ll push forward here again, he’s drawn well (gate two) so he’d probably be on the speed somewhere,” the trainer said, also indicating that Nothingilikemore is unlikely to be seen too many times this season. “I want to see how he pulls up, step one. But he’s only a young horse, so I try not to do too much with them when they are three-year-olds. I’ve got no plan other than to pick my way through the programme.”
Among the horse’s rivals is Tony Cruz-trained Regency Bo Bo (122lb), who finished five lengths astern in second behind Nothingilikemore last start. Regency Bo Bo will jump from gate 11 as he looks to break his string of second placings, and will meet the Size galloper 14 pounds better at the weights.
“He looks to have plenty of upside, John’s horse,” jockey Neil Callan said. “We do get the weight swing but we’ve drawn awkwardly though so we will need everything to go our way to have a chance of turning the tables.”
Size has prepared 56 winners so far this season to comfortably lead the trainers’ championship, where he currently holds an 11-win buffer over nearest rival John Moore. Last season’s Champion Trainer is already within 12 victories of the mark of 68 he set in 2015/16, with 36 meetings left on the calendar for 2016/17.
“I’m not getting too carried away, there’s a long way to go,” Size said, with the handler saddling up seven runners at Sha Tin on Sunday. “It can all turn around very quickly. I just try to go day-to-day, meeting-to-meeting.”
The Geranium Handicap closes the 10-race card at Sha Tin and is set for 5:45pm, with the opener, the Class 5 Snapdragon Handicap (1650m) on the all-weather track, scheduled to jump at 1pm.
Nothingilikemore makes all to win a Class Three 1400m contest last start.