John Size will take a 10th shot at winning the G1 Yasuda Kinen (1600m) on Sunday (3 June) and this time his hopes rest on Western Express, a talented yet unheralded second seed in the Hong Kong “miler” ranks this term.
The race that anoints Japan’s spring king at the distance has been a late-season target for Hong Kong horses ever since Winning Partners rocked up to beat two home in 1994. A total of 37 Sha Tin-based gallopers have tried the test, two have won (2000 Fairy King Prawn, 2006 Bullish Luck) and four have placed: Size’s best result from nine previous runners remains the first, Armada’s second place in 2008.
“I now have lots of experience but maybe not more knowledge,” Size quipped with a self-deprecating smile when the gathered media pressed him about his Yasuda Kinen record this morning, Thursday, 31 May.
In Western Express, the handler believes he has a horse with both the constitution to perform overseas and the form in the book to merit a place in the field. In both of Hong Kong’s premier mile races this term, the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile and the G1 Champions Mile, only Beauty Generation has had the chestnut’s measure.
“He showed me in December that he was good enough for this race and when he repeated that performance last start he confirmed the impression,” Size said.
“He’s had 10 races this season but because of his constitution he’s able to handle that, he’s a strong boy, he has strength within himself and seems to be able to cope, so far – he’s bigger than your average horse. He’s normally very honest and does his best, any energy he’s got he’ll use it.”
Western Express weighed in at 1,236lb this morning – 11lb up on his last racing weight but 21lb down on his Hong Kong Mile weight – before heading trackside for a workout, his ears and eyes alert with curiosity. Six laps of the trotting ring preceded a stretch-out on the dirt track; moving at a trot to the exit of the home straight, breaking to a controlled canter and then quickening from the 800m for a fast hit-out up the home straight. A gentle lob back around wrapped up the session.