Already considered a Hong Kong racing immortal, John Size became only the second trainer in the jurisdiction to prepare 1,400 winners after teaming with Joao Moreira and Seizing The Moment at a sodden Happy Valley on Wednesday night (11 May).
Joining Australian compatriot and all-time wins record-holder John Moore (1,735 wins) as the only horsemen to saddle 1,400 or more winners in Hong Kong, Size was typically self-effacing after achieving the milestone in the first section of the Class 3 Kam Tin River Handicap (1200m).
“That’s good, I’m very happy with my training career. I’m very pleased with that number, it’s very nice. I suppose I better keep working and see if I can win another race,” the 11-time champion trainer said.
“I’ve been here a long time, that’s probably what it means – it took a while to get there. It’s always gratifying to reach a new number and I’m always so grateful for all the help I’ve received since I’ve been here and I’m very happy with my training career in Hong Kong.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to have some really nice horses.”
A long-time Size ally, Moreira was chuffed to play a central role in the champion horseman’s latest success.
“John certainly deserves all the credit for what he has achieved in Hong Kong. He’s such an amazing trainer but not just that – he’s such a great human being. Being the way that he is, he deserves this kind of result,” the Brazilian said.
“I’m very proud of being the one on board his 1,400th winner and the best part of it is that he’s got many more winners to come. He’s got many more years left and I’m sure he’s not just going to sit on 1,400.”
Size, 67, has trained in Hong Kong since 2001/02, when he marked his arrival with victory in the trainers’ championship in his first season. The Queenslander currently sits second with 70 wins in this year’s championship behind Frankie Lor (71), hopeful of snapping the tie he shares with George Moore (also 11 titles) for the most training crowns.
Locked on 1,399 wins entering the 70th meeting of the season with Tony Cruz, Size’s low-key reaction contrasted with Moreira’s exuberance post-race.
“The horse is a trier. I actually thought he was gone at the 600 metres. I thought we might finish last or second last and when I got him out of kick-back, he dashes home and showed that he’s a real racehorse. It’s such a pleasure to ride a horse like that – it gives a bit of extra joy,” the mud-spattered Brazilian said.
David Hall pointed to the yielding conditions as a critical factor in Kyrus Unicorn’s victory in the first section of the Class 4 Tai Shing Stream Handicap (1650m) under an inspired Blake Shinn ride.
“He’s a British horse and he’s a horse that’s had a few issues over the time with the hard tracks in Hong Kong and that’s why his rating has dropped down a fair way (from 85 to 54), but he still did a good job tonight,” Hall said of the Havana Gold gelding who had placed only twice in 21 previous starts.
Lyle Hewitson’s stunning late-season surge continued with a double. The South African partnered Ricky Yiu’s Nimble Nimbus to a five-length win in the second section of the Class 4 Tai Shing Stream Handicap (1650m) before teaming with Douglas Whyte’s Astrologer to claim the second section of the Class 3 Kam Tin River Handicap (1200m).
The brace took Hewitson’s tally of winners at the past six meetings to 10 for a seasonal total of 15 victories.
Hewitson’s compatriot Tony Millard combined with Brazilian Ruan Maia to secure the second section of the Class 4 Shan Pui River Handicap (1200m) with Above All, a son of Deep Field.
“It’s a bit of Russian Roulette here with the horses as to whether they handle ground like this,” Millard said. “He really enjoyed it. Ruan said as the horse came out of the pens, he really enjoyed the conditions. It was a good ride and it’s lovely to win.”
Above All’s emphatic victory filled Frankie Lor with confidence ahead of Gorgeous Vitality’s similarly dominant success in the Class 4 Nam Chung River Handicap (1000m) under Zac Purton.
“The last winner is also by Deep Field so that made me more confident,” Lor said. “He really handled the track well. He’s a nice horse.”
Yiu completed a double with Island Shine in the first section of the Class 4 Shan Pui River Handicap (1200m) for Derek Leung.
“He (Island Shine) is the kind of horse who enjoys a bit of cut in the ground. The season before last he had a bad fall and while he didn’t really have any major issues, it seemed to me that after the fall for a few runs he lost his confidence,” Yiu said.
“He had a better draw (five) and what amazed me was the jockey didn’t really pull his stick up in the straight, just hands and heels. Maybe the different riding might have helped because normally he hangs in in the straight.”
Contesting his 18th start in Hong Kong, Irish-bred Fortune Triple revelled in the conditions to land the Class 5 Tan Shan River Handicap (2200m) for Me Tsui and Derek Leung, who moved to 32 wins for the season with a brace before Chris So isolated Vincent Ho’s ride as the decisive factor in Tianchi Monster’s success in the Class 3 Lam Tsuen River Handicap (1800m).
“Vincent’s ride was the difference, taking off at the 1000m mark and the horse really seemed to enjoy the conditions,” So said.