By Andrew Hawkins
Mr Stunning has been this season’s exciting arrival on the sprinting scene, but trainer John Size is cautious about his chances against the big hitters at set weights in Sunday’s (9 April) G2 Sprint Cup (1200m) at Sha Tin.
The four-year-old has long been on a potential collision course with Hong Kong’s top sprinters, ever since he won his maiden in breathtaking fashion at Happy Valley in February last year. He has won six of his nine Hong Kong starts, his last two over the Sha Tin straight 1000m in Class 2 and Class 1 respectively, to book a Sprint Cup berth. However, Size was circumspect when talking about the Exceed And Excel gelding’s recent run of form.
“His two handicap wins down the straight were set up for him, they were very suitable races,” Size said at Sha Tin trackwork on Friday morning (7 April). “Now, he’s on 118 and he goes back to 1200 metres around the bend and he’s got a big job in front of him. But he’s a determined little horse, he keeps making progress, he’s healthy and well, so we’ll give him his chance.”
Size, who sends out three runners in the Sprint Cup, believes the horses at the top of the ratings order – Lucky Bubbles, Peniaphobia and Blizzard – could prove too much of a task for Mr Stunning, with all nine entries carrying 123 pounds.
“The high-rated horses look too good for mine,” the trainer said. “Those horses rated 128 (Lucky Bubbles and Peniaphobia), they’re hard to handle, so I’m expecting the horses at the top end, numbers one, two and three, to be the major contenders. We’re just hoping we gather some prize money.”
Tony Cruz-trained Peniaphobia, winner of the 2015 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint over this course and distance, took the G2 Centenary Sprint Cup (1200m) under similar conditions two starts back, beating Lucky Bubbles. However, the Dandy Man gelding then finished a five-length sixth to Mr Stunning last time out when conceding his younger rival plenty of weight.
“He was top-weight last time, he gave 18 pounds away to the winner and he was a bit below his best,” Cruz said. “But it’s set weights this time and I think he has a really good chance. He’s showing his usual spark.”
In addition to Mr Stunning, Size sends out returning Thewizardofoz and miler-turned-sprinter Sun Jewellery.
Thewizardofoz has not raced since finishing 11th as second favourite in the G2 Premier Bowl Handicap (1200m) behind Lucky Bubbles in October. His jockey that day, Joao Moreira, has stuck with Mr Stunning, paving the way for Chad Schofield to take the mount on the blueblooded son of Redoute’s Choice.
“He gets a bit of blood and so therefore I gave him a break to try and resolve it a little bit, give him a chance,” Size said. “He’s had four trials back and each of his trials he’s made good progress, so I think he’s ready to run. He’s got to run with the good horses, sadly, but we’ll get back to the races and if he runs well he should improve on that.”
Sun Jewellery won the first two legs of last year’s Four-Year-Old Classic Series, the Hong Kong Classic Mile (1600m) and the Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m). However, he has been winless this season and Size is resigned to the fact that the mile may not be his optimum trip.
“He’s struggling running the mile, and even the 1400, so we’ll try him in the sprint,” Size said of the son of Snitzel, with Zac Purton taking the ride once again. “I don’t think that he’ll run badly, I think the sprint will probably suit him.”
Dashing Fellow, Lucky Year and Bad Boy complete the nine-runner field for the Sprint Cup, which is set to jump at 4.05pm.
It is one of two G2 features on the Sha Tin card, with the G2 Chairman’s Trophy (1600m) featuring six G1 winners – including Helene Paragon, Beauty Only and Werther – and this year’s top four-year-old Rapper Dragon, a last-start winner of the BMW Hong Kong Derby. The Chairman’s Trophy is scheduled for 4.35pm.
Mr Stunning coasts to victory over 1000m at Sha Tin last start.