By Andrew Hawkins
Trainer John Size set a new record for most winners in a season with his 92nd victory of the term at Sha Tin on Sunday (25 June), and perhaps it was fitting that it took a masterful training effort to produce the milestone as Thewizardofoz powered clear to take out the G3 Premier Cup Handicap (1400m), the final Group race of the season.
“That was the real ‘Wizard’ today,” reunited rider Joao Moreira exclaimed, reflecting on what has been a checkered path for the five-year-old throughout his Hong Kong career. “We knew he was very good from the early days, and unfortunately he hasn’t been able to deliver the best of himself up until today. Today, we saw the best of him and I was very impressed and proud of him. I’m so lucky to have him as a ride, he’s a very good horse.”
Thewizardofoz (133lb), a blueblood son of Redoute’s Choice out of champion New Zealand mare Princess Coup, had looked a very promising horse in his early days, winning his first three starts as a three-year-old and earning the moniker of Champion Griffin in 2014/15.
At four, Thewizardofoz won twice over 1400m, including what was his most recent win until Sunday in the Class 1 Chinese New Year Cup Handicap in February 2016, but he was beaten as a hot favourite in the 2016 Hong Kong Classic Mile and failed to fire when well in the market in that year’s G1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize (1200m).
The disappointments continued upon his return at the start of this season as he only beat one home in his first-up run, the G2 Premier Bowl Handicap (1200m), pulling up with a number of issues that required a spell and leaving Size and Moreira scratching their heads.
Jockey Chad Schofield had been in the saddle for three further runs this campaign, with Thewizardofoz yielding three top-four finishes – third in the G2 Sprint Cup, fourth in the G1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize and third in the G3 Sha Tin Vase, all at 1200m. However, it was Moreira – the only jockey to have won on Thewizardofoz – who was back in the plate for the Premier Cup.
Early on in Sunday’s event, Moreira had Thewizardofoz at the rear as Me Tsui-trained outsider Adventurer (113lb) carved out the early running under Karis Teetan. However, Teetan slowed the pace substantially on the circle, a move that ended up playing into Thewizardofoz’s hands, according to Moreira.
“They set up the pace quite nice for him,” he said. “It was genuine enough early which suited but they slowed it down around the 700m so I was close enough to be able to sprint strongly. When I pulled him to the outside he responded, even with the top weight he was just able to sprint past them. He has a brilliant turn of foot.”
Thewizardofoz swept to the lead at the 200m and strode away from Tony Cruz-trained Winner’s Way (120lb), stopping the clock in 1m 20.86s, including a very brisk last 400m sectional of 21.68s.
Size was not on hand to witness Thewizardofoz’s victory, with his assistant Frankie Lor – who will join Hong Kong’s training ranks in his own right next season – instead holding court.
“He ran well in the Group 1 (Chairman’s Sprint Prize) and he’s shown again that he’s good enough for a high level,” Lor said. “I ride him in the mornings and I expected something like that from him today because his last few runs were at 1200 (metres) and that’s a little bit short for him – I think the 1400 is his best distance.”
Lor also reflected with pride on Size’s new mark, which eclipsed Tony Cruz’s 91-win season in 2004/05.
“We are very happy because it’s very hard to get to 92 winners,” he said. “I don't think anyone can break it, it will be very hard to do. We still have a few meetings left, so hopefully we can add to it.”
For Moreira, a day that had soured early on with Pakistan Star’s quirky antics in the G3 Premier Plate Handicap (1800m) ended up producing diamonds with the Brazilian rider scoring a four-timer. That took the Brazilian to 166 wins, two short of his record of 168 set last season.
Racing returns to Happy Valley on Wednesday night (28 June) for an eight-race card at what is the season’s penultimate meeting at the city track.
Photo 1, 2
The John Size-trained Thewizardofoz storms home to take the G3 Premier Cup Handicap (1400m) at Sha Tin Racecourse today.
Connections of Thewizardofoz celebrate their success after the race.
Photo 4, 5, 6
Club Steward Silas Yang presents the Premier Cup to Thewizardofoz��s owner Martin Siu Kim Sun, trainer John Size��s assistant Frankie Lor, and jockey Joao Moreira.
Club Deputy Chairman Anthony Chow (back row, far right), Club Stewards, CEO Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges (back row, far left) and connections of Thewizardofoz smile for the cameras at the presentation ceremony.