Horse Racing
True Grit needed as Size digs in for a championship fight

By David Morgan
25/06/2019 14:42

John Size is hoping to seal an 11th Hong Kong championship.
John Size is hoping to seal an 11th Hong Kong championship.

John Size is five wins clear in the trainers’ premiership heading into the campaign’s final six meetings but with John Moore packing plenty of ammunition for a grandstand finish, the 10-time champion is looking over his shoulder.

“I certainly don’t feel like a winner at this point because John’s got a lot of horses running well,” Size said at Sha Tin this morning, Tuesday, 25 June.

Their tallies stand at 73 and 68. Both handlers have four runners engaged at Happy Valley on Wednesday night (26 June) and Moore has 16 in the early entries for next Monday’s Sha Tin fixture against Size’s 11. The chaser is set to unleash two of his brightest young talents at the latter meeting – Aethero and Thanks Forever – in a bid to close the gap on Size.

“He’s got some pretty classy gallopers so there’ll be a bit of luck involved in the next six meetings and whoever has the luck will win the championship,” Size observed.

Happy Valley’s midweek fixture sees Size roll the dice again with a smart young prospect of his own. True Grit is set to go in the finale, the Class 3 Cheung Chau Handicap (1650m), seeking a fourth win on the trot.

“He’s rising up in class all the time – it’s a pretty competitive race and there are some nice horses in it. There seems to be quite strong speed in the race so it’ll be a good test,” Size said.

True Grit and Joao Moreira are shooting for four in a row together.
True Grit and Joao Moreira are shooting for four in a row together.

The four-year-old had four runs before hitting the mark over the course and distance back in April and completed the hat-trick at the track and trip late last month. Joao Moreira is seeking to maintain a perfect sequence on the Wanted gelding, who saw off the re-opposing Harmony Hero when scoring last time.

“He’s done everything right, he’s been good and he’s shown some potential,” Size said. “He won his last start a length and a quarter and that was a fairly solid win so he’s probably entitled to run well again.

“At Happy Valley he seems to be running well there since we started racing him, so there’s no need to change at the moment. Eventually he’ll have to come to Sha Tin.”

Country returns

Size and his ace Brazilian stable rider will team up with Country Star in the evening’s penultimate contest, the Class 2 Grass Island Handicap (1000m).

The three-year-old has enjoyed a fine first season with five wins from nine starts but ran his only below-par race last time when 11th in a 1200m contest on 6 March.

“Last time he raced he got a bit of blood but he’d had a fair bit of racing before that so he was due for a break anyway,” Size said. “He’s had some time off and he looks in good shape.”

Country Star is a five-time winner over 1200m at the Valley.
Country Star is a five-time winner over 1200m at the Valley.

Country Star has spent much of this season being trained at the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s Conghua Racecourse facility, including a three-month span up to 6 June, since when he has had two barrier trials in preparation for his final race this term.

“He’s had two trials at Sha Tin and one in Conghua – the trials have been sound,” Size said. “He’s healthy and well; we’ll go to the races and see if he can keep up with these 1000-metre horses, they’ll be pretty fast for him, but, if he gets a nice trail, he might get home.

“If he can get away with a race like this before the end of the season, that will be a good ending for him. He’s done a lot of work this season and he’s done an excellent job. He’s had time to have a break and have another run so he might as well have it.”

Country Star will step down in distance to 1000m for the first time since his career debut and faces 11 rivals, including the seven-time course and distance winner Moment Of Power who has reached a career peak rating of 94.

Moment Of Power wins his seventh race at the course and distance.

Paul O’Sullivan’s charge has won two of his last three starts under 7lb claimer Victor Wong. With that rider on the injured list, Jack Wong is set to takes the reins with his 3lb allowance.

“It’s pretty straightforward, we’ll just go and lead,” Wong said. “Being drawn 10 is ok over 1000 metres at Happy Valley but he is facing some good horses and he has to carry a big weight so it will be a tough race.

“But he’s pretty fit, he has trialled well and he’s a very good horse at this course and distance. Last time he had the benefit of the seven-pound claim so he loses some of that this time.”

The night’s eight-race card starts at 7.15pm with the Class 4 Po Toi Handicap (1000m) and features the Class 3 Manawatu Racing Club Challenge Trophy Handicap (1650m).