John Size created his own slice of history in the LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) at Sha Tin today (Sunday, 10 December) as he became the first trainer ever to prepare the quinella in a Hong Kong International Races (HKIR) feature. His speedster Mr Stunning confirmed his place as the leading horse in town, at least on ratings, notching his maiden G1 win in determined fashion over stablemate D B Pin.
Sent out a 1.9 favourite, Mr Stunning was Size’s top seed among his record-equalling four runners in the Sprint, and when the five-year-old ambled up under jockey Nash Rawiller entering the straight, the HK$18.5 million feature looked there for the taking.
However, the biggest threat loomed large down the outside in the form of 20/1 salvo D B Pin, rushing home under Olivier Doleuze. D B Pin ranged up as though he would race on by, but Mr Stunning had enough in hand, maintaining a neck victory at the line to give Size his first Sprint win and his second HKIR victory overall.
Blizzard, stepping out for the first time since the G1 Sprinters Stakes (1200m) in Japan in October, held third for three-time Sprint-winning trainer Ricky Yiu, with last year’s runner-up Lucky Bubbles fourth.
“He’s very professional and he’s proven himself on top of the Hong Kong sprinters, that’s for sure,” Rawiller said.
Rawiller positioned Mr Stunning third, chasing pace-setters Peniaphobia and Once In A Moon. He sat two-deep throughout, although he had space to his inside, and the Hong Kong-based Australian rider stated that was a pre-determined plan.
“I had no intention of going near the rail at any stage,” Rawiller said. “It can change pretty quickly in a race like that, you only need them to steady a little bit and next minute, you’re in the worst spot in the race. Although it looks pretty going down the hill, it can end up being the biggest trap of all time.
“So I sat one-off, I was in a beautiful position with a bit of cover. The horse was in a lovely rhythm. They were talking about the racing gods the other day – well, this was in the hands of the racing gods, definitely.”
Rawiller was referring to his role in the barrier draw for Mr Stunning on Thursday (7 December). The jockey was tasked with picking the barrier for the Exceed And Excel gelding, with only gates four and 12 left. Rawiller picked four. The unlucky horse left with the second barrier from the outside? D B Pin.
“If he’d drawn 12 and D B Pin had got four, who knows how it might have played out?” Rawiller mused. “I’m lucky I’m on a very good, if not an outstanding, horse. He might have won anyway! Today, he was always going to get to me and I was always going to be vulnerable the last 50 metres, but my bloke just kept doing what he needed to do.
“When you speak of gods, too, I’m probably lucky that I had the chance to ride for one in John Size. He’s the god of trainers.”
Mr Stunning had earned favouritism with wins in the G2 Premier Bowl Handicap and the G2 Jockey Club Sprint over Sunday’s course and distance, beating the majority of his local rivals on both occasions.
“He’s had a lovely lead-up into the race,” Size said. “His three runs were very good. He’s trained well and trialled well all the way through to today. He’s had every opportunity, he drew a good gate, he had a perfect run and Nash put him in a beautiful position so it was hard to see him being beaten from there.
“To D B Pin’s credit, though, he’s probably covered a lot of extra ground from the gate and he’s made him work for it. Both horses have run very well.”
For Rawiller, it was a first G1 win since he took the All-Aged Stakes (1400m) at Randwick in April, 2014 aboard Japanese mare Hana’s Goal.
“I was fortunate enough to ride a Macau Derby winner but I haven’t had an international G1 win here, so it’s great to finally get one. I’m thrilled,” he said, with the hardened jockey choking up slightly. “I have to thank my family, they are everything to me and they have been my biggest supporters.”
D B Pin covered ground in the middle stages but was far from disgraced at his first attempt at G1 level.
“I am sad but happy. I was very confident,” Doleuze said. “Last time I could not really test him but today he has run against an impressive horse and run a great race. He gave me everything.”
Size said that Mr Stunning would likely be confined to a domestic programme, with races like the G1 Centenary Sprint Cup (1200m) in January and G1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize (1200m) in April likely to be on his agenda.
“I’m not sure he’s got the constitution to travel, I’m not sure if he’s that tough,” Size said. “At home though, if he’s looked after in Hong Kong, he’ll keep racing well.”
Size’s other two horses, Amazing Kids and Thewizardofoz, finished fifth and seventh respectively.
Mr Stunning stopped the clock in 1m 08.4s, the fastest Hong Kong Sprint win since Lord Kanaloa’s breathtaking second victory in 2013.