By David Morgan
Mr Stunning is the obvious standout among John Size’s weekend Group 1 challengers but Hong Kong’s emerging sprint star is not the only runner from the stable with claims on big-race glory this Sunday (7 May).
As well as that likely G1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize (1200m) favourite, the champion trainer and current runaway premiership leader’s arsenal includes Amazing Kids, Thewizardofoz and Sun Jewellery, while Contentment will fly the flag in the G1 Champions Mile.
Mr Stunning heads into the HK$14 million Chairman’s Sprint Prize off an authoritative pattern race breakthrough in last month’s G2 Sprint Cup at the course and distance. The four-year-old enjoyed a dream run and scooted past the re-opposing Peniaphobia for an eye-catching half-length win on that occasion. Size would like to see more of that on Sunday.
“It's probably a similar test to the last one for Mr Stunning, he had a lot of luck, it was a very lucky race for him and he was able to capitalise on that. That's probably his best run of his career and whether he can repeat that is up to him,” he said.
With seven wins on the board from 10 career starts since debuting in February of last year, Mr Stunning has made impressive strides up to this point.
“He's done well at home, he looks good, he seems fit and healthy so hopefully he runs well again,” Size said. “Racing says that he's obviously improved and he's lived up to the promise he showed the first day he went to the races, so it's always gratifying when that happens.”
Meanwhile, Size is hoping that a return trip to Dubai has not had an adverse effect on another of his Chairman’s Sprint Prize contenders, Amazing Kids. The five-year-old Falkirk gelding failed to show his best running when sixth in the G1 Al Quoz Sprint (1200m) at Meydan at the end of March.
“Amazing Kids, he looks ok to us. We don't think there's any reason why he couldn't run and you'll probably find out race day if he's taken any harm from the trip. He hasn't shown us much to suggest he shouldn't be running. It was only an ordinary barrier trial last week, but he’s done that many times and he's come out and won so we can't be too concerned about it.”
Amazing Kids was ninth of 13 in that star-packed turf trial over 1000m on 25 April. This weekend’s partner, Brett Prebble, was in the plate on that occasion and is satisfied with the New Zealand-bred’s effort, in which he finished one spot ahead of Champions Mile favourite Rapper Dragon.
“That was a slick sort of trial in that they went pretty fast,” he said. “He’s normally quite a lazy horse in the morning, he doesn't do very much at all. When Joao trialled him before Dubai, I think they went a bit slower early and he stood up on the speed and just travelled nicely – that looked a more impressive sort of trial.
“I’m not overly concerned. He’s a racehorse and he normally doesn’t show you anything in the morning, so I’m excited to get back on him. I’ve always had an opinion of the two horses, him and Lucky Bubbles.”
Amazing Kids has two Group 3 wins under his belt this term, the National Day Cup Handicap and the Bauhinia Sprint Trophy Handicap, both down the 1000m straight.
“He’s the only horse among the sprinters to have won two Group races this season,” Prebble pointed out. “Luck in running will come into it – most of the horses with chances seem to have good barriers that suit. If Aerovelocity runs, well, he’ll go forward from nine and if he doesn’t, Peniaphobia will do his own thing – he makes his own favours, he always turns up.
“Dubai doesn’t even come into my consideration, not with this trainer. He wouldn’t even take the risk to run if he had any doubt that the horse hadn’t travelled well. He’s got a couple of runners in the race so he doesn’t need an extra one for the sake of it. Unless the horse is showing that it’s healthy, he doesn’t run them. The patience John has is extraordinary.”
Size has always had some regard for another of his representatives, Thewizardofoz, and this time last year Joao Moreira opted to take the ride on the Redoute’s Choice gelding in the Chairman’s Sprint Prize, only to finish a disappointing 10th. Size took his famous patient approach after the five-year-old flopped first-up this term back in October, and the bay returned from a lengthy mid-season break with a promising dead-heat third in Mr Stunning’s Sprint Cup. Chad Schofield rides at the weekend.
“Thewizardofoz, his latest run was very good,” Size said. “The most pleasing thing was the way he improved when he went home after the race. I thought he'd done very well and the race had brought him on so I was pretty happy about that and he's probably going to improve on that. He might be the one to watch because he’s the improver.”
One horse of Size’s that does need to improve if he is to figure is last season’s Champion Miler Sun Jewellery. The trainer hopes that the five-year-old, a registered roarer, will show some spark now that he has dropped down to sprinting.
“Sun Jewellery is in good shape, he's been struggling this season because of his wind issues at the distances but coming back to the sprints, I think he will probably acquit himself well at the 1200 metres,” the trainer said.
Cracking the Contentment code
Size and Prebble will also team up in the HK$16 million G1 Champions Mile with Contentment, a G1 winner last season when taking out the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup (1400m) but unable to make a mark this term.
The Hussonet six-year-old has raced nine times this season for one top three finish, but, despite failing to match his best so far, the Australian-bred has maintained an admirable level of consistency in finishing just behind the principals in most of his outings. Last time, however, Contentment was a below-par three and three quarter lengths sixth to Rapper Dragon in the G2 Chairman’s Trophy at the course and distance. Prebble believes first-time blinkers had a negative effect that day.
“He’s been below his best performance all season but he’s been consistently around the same mark, until last time when we put the blinkers on,” he said. “I thought he would appreciate the blinkers because he gawks at everything and looks around. But he raced in front, and I think, in the blinkers, having nothing to follow, I don't think he appreciated them which surprised me. Obviously, John’s got him back in his original gear (pacifier) on Sunday.
“I have in my mind that he’s coming out of that race having not had a hard run at all, because he never went,” Prebble continued. “He might have a little bit of reserved energy from saving himself. If he just gives us a peak performance, I reckon he can win, but is it still there?”
Prebble has partnered Contentment in each of his last 13 starts and believes that the horse is “a bit of a thinker”.
“He tries hard through a race but then he seems to switch off a little bit in the last 100 yards, he looks at the winning post and loses concentration, that’s why I thought the blinkers would help him concentrate on his job but they had the opposite effect,” he revealed.
“The way he works in the morning, too, he’s a bit of a thinker. He’s a lovely, kind horse, mind you. But he’s with the right trainer – if it’s there to find, he’ll find it.
“He hasn’t gone to that peak performance yet for the season, so he’s maybe holding himself back – hasn't exerted himself to the full extent of what we maybe think he can do. He’s left me scratching my head a little bit. I feel that it is there though, I reckon there’s a better run in him.”
Joao Moreira guides Mr Stunning to victory in the G2 Sprint Cup last start.
Contentment makes a G1 breakthrough in last year��s Queen��s Silver Jubilee Cup.