Jockey Nash Rawiller is confident that Mr Stunning can once again live up to his billing as the best horse in town in the G1 Centenary Sprint Cup (1200m) at Sha Tin on Sunday (28 January), but the Australian rider also believes that there are a number of potential challengers to the throne among his seven rivals in the HK$10m feature.
Rawiller scored his most significant Hong Kong victory aboard the John Size-trained Mr Stunning in last month’s G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (1200m). Since then, the 43-year-old has been aboard in two barrier trials on the Sha Tin dirt as the Exceed And Excel gelding has geared up for his latest target.
“I think he’s holding his form, he hasn’t missed a beat really,” Rawiller said at Sha Tin on Friday morning (26 January). “His first trial, he’d had what seemed a bit of a freshen-up – he hadn’t done a lot since the internationals – but he was nice and bright, jumped out and showed his normal sort of speed. The other day, he was a little bit more down to earth, he had the edge off him a little more but he still showed that speed and he towed me right to the line.
“He just seems a very happy horse, so he seems in the right frame of mind for Sunday. It just depends what has improved out of the internationals.”
In his three wins this season, Mr Stunning has had the measure of most of Sunday’s rivals. In fact, the only Centenary Sprint Cup runner the five-year-old is yet to face is his stablemate Beat The Clock, who makes his G1 debut.
Despite Mr Stunning having proven form against most of his opponents, Rawiller is pragmatic when assessing the race.
“You’ve got to be respectful for plenty of these horses, though,” Rawiller said. “I’m going in believing that I am on the best horse, but you’ve still got to have respect for your opposition. D B Pin was outstanding in the international and the unknown factor is Beat The Clock, he’s got a fair bit to prove to show that he’s up to Mr Stunning but he’s a good horse. And Francis Lui’s horse, Lucky Bubbles, he hasn’t had anything go his way all prep, either.”