Trainer John Size’s dominance of the feature sprints appears set to continue this term with the Australian handler holding the ace hand in Monday’s (1 October) G3 National Day Cup Handicap (1000m), saddling up G1 winner Ivictory and rising star Hot King Prawn.
Size won seven of Hong Kong’s nine Group-level sprints last season, preparing the trifecta on three occasions and the quinella in another two. In Ivictory and Hot King Prawn, though, he has a pair that is likely to be at the forefront of the sprint division in the season ahead. Both have only tasted defeat once and both still seem to be on an upward spiral.
Ivictory (133lb) emerged from a big Class 2 victory at Happy Valley – in track record time, no less – to take the G1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize (1200m) at his last start in April. Last season’s Champion Sprinter returns to the Sha Tin straight for the first time since his debut in May, 2017, when he scored from a seemingly impossible position at the 200m – albeit against Class 4 company.
“I don’t think he’s a 1000m horse, but he’s a Group 1 winner, so in a handicap they always have to be considered as capable of winning it,” Size said at Sha Tin on Friday morning (28 September). “Once they get to that point, the handicapper doesn’t really have much control over them. They have to drop back to races like this and they could be a different class, so a couple of points doesn’t make much of a difference.
“This race comes up early in the season, his fitness will improve with racing and even though he’s the best horse in the race, the handicap is still problematic. But he’s earned that weight and he’s not without a hope.”
Hot King Prawn (117lb) will be looking to emulate Ivictory by scoring at his first attempt in stakes company. The popular grey has already attracted a large international following thanks to his quirky name, not to mention his ample talent, but Size remains cautious with the four-year-old as he climbs the ratings ladder.
“He’s still working his way through but I think he’s up to it,” Size said. “It is a handicap so that helps him out and he’s good at the course and distance, he’s had good practice at that. It’s a better-quality race and he faces stronger horses now, but I think he will acquit himself well. He looks better as a four-year-old but you would expect that, horses do progress here like that.”
Jockey Zac Purton has ridden both Ivictory and Hot King Prawn, but despite a more extensive partnership with “the Prawn”, he has stuck with Ivictory for Monday’s race.
“Hot King Prawn is a very effective horse up the straight and the light weight he’s got to carry compared to the heavy weight I’ve got to carry is obviously a concern,” Purton said. “However, one’s done it and has the runs on the board, while one’s yet to do it. We’ll see how they end up at the end of the season.”
In Purton’s place on Hot King Prawn is Karis Teetan. The Mauritian rider has been aboard the Denman four-year-old in two trials on Sha Tin’s all-weather track.
“His trials have been very good,” Teetan said. “He’s proven what he is already, he’s got so much speed. This is obviously a big step up for him but I think he’s got the ability for it, to take on the big horses. His second trial was much better, he was much fitter, and the straight is his game so with that weight, he’s definitely got a shout.”
Both Ivictory and Hot King Prawn will follow the traditional path to December’s showpiece LONGINES Hong Kong International Races, tackling the G2 Premier Bowl Handicap (1200m) and the G2 Jockey Club Sprint (1200m) before their first major target of the season, the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (1200m).
“There are no options now though, if they are fit and well they will go down the normal sprinting route,” Size said, with stars like D B Pin and Beat The Clock also set to join the trainer’s team in those races. “I think D B Pin will be ready to head that way as well soon. He seems OK, he’s had some time off but he’s training up now, he’s galloping regularly. He’s sound and at the moment all is well.”
Among the Size pair’s five rivals are 2015 National Day Cup winner Not Listenin’tome (113lb), who has spent some time at Conghua for trainer John Moore, G3 victor Winner’s Way (128lb), speedy galloper Fabulous One (113lb) and Francis Lui-trained pair Doctor Geoff (113lb) and Jumbo Luck (113lb).
The National Day Cup is scheduled as the seventh of 10 races at the National Day meeting and is set for 4.05pm (6.05pm AEST), with the card’s other feature, the G3 Celebration Cup Handicap (1400m), set to jump at 4.40pm (6.40pm AEST).
– News from Hong Kong Jockey Club