Size has Stunning chance to make big impression in Hong Kong Sprint
The laconic Aussie isn’t one to talk for the sake of talking – think Sir Michael Stoute on a terse day – but his Hong Kong training career is impossible to fault.
Correction, it’s impossible to fault with one exception. Size has been champion trainer nine times in Hong Kong and set a record of 94 winners last term. However, his record on HKIR day reads just one winner from 37 runners. Mr Stunning heads his team of four in the Sprint, which gives him an undeniable chance of improving that tepid strike-rate.
This studious Japanese handler is even less likely to get the sing-song going than Size but his horses speak volumes and he became the first overseas trainer ever to win two HKIR contests on the same day last year when Satono Crown and Maurice landed the Vase and the Cup.
Hori’s work-riders often sport goggles which provide live sectional times during workouts and his precision has yielded three winners and only one horse out of the frame from eight HKIR runners since 2008.
Hori comes single-handed this year as Neorealism bids to thwart local hero Werther in the Hong Kong Cup.
The six-year-old disappointed on soft ground on his sole run since landing a Group 1 at Sha Tin in April but Joao Moreira has chosen him ahead of local hope Time Warp and the chances of mud at Sha Tin are slim to non-existent.
The rider they call ‘The Magic Man’ remains the leading player on the Hong Kong circuit but early signs suggest another record-breaking season will prove elusive.
Still, the 34-year-old Brazilian has already won each of the HKIR Group 1 prizes once and he has a solid book of rides as he bids to weave his magic for the Sha Tin faithful again.
Moreira’s sustained faith in Size-trained Sprint hope Thewizardofoz has largely been misplaced, while Japanese stayer Tosen Basil is below the best in his homeland and faces a stern European challenge in the Vase.
Neorealism’s best form makes him a strong contender for the Hong Kong Cup, while Seasons Bloom beat the best of the local Mile hopes here last month but now has to meet a couple of his closest pursuers on 5lb worse terms.
Although Moreira hogs the headlines Purton is a world-class rider who passed the 700-winner mark in Hong Kong last season.
Ten years in the goldfish bowl has hardened him and he combines the feisty attitude of so many Aussie sportsmen with a clinical approach to the strengths and weaknesses of partners and rivals.
Purton knows he has a hard act to follow after landing the Sprint and the Mile on board Aerovelocity and Beauty Only on this day last year.
Beauty Only is back in his bid to complete the double, while former British gallopers Time Warp and Gold Mount (formerly Primitivo for Alan King) give him live place prospects in the Cup and the Vase.
The doyen of Hong Kong handlers has been struggling of late. Such setbacks must be easier to bear when nearly 1,600 Hong Kong wins have garnered an eye-watering £180 million in prize-money but the death of emerging star Rapper Dragon and training problems for several other Group 1 hopefuls have left the charismatic Aussie to lean on two old stagers and one newcomer to the Group 1 scene.
Werther has been a potent force in elite company for several seasons and a willing defeat of a progressive young rival in Group 2 company last month means he is primed for a very bold bid in the Hong Kong Cup.
Moore maintains Helene Paragon – dubbed ‘The Bulldog’ by his trainer – was unlucky when going down narrowly to Beauty Only in last year’s Mile.
The ex-Spanish gelding is back for another crack under new stable jockey Tommy Berry and should be ably supported by a capable stablemate in up-and-coming Beauty Generation.
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