John Size hopes a powerful string headed by HK$3.72 million Class 1 Panasonic Cup Handicap (1400m) contenders Tuchel and Red Lion will deliver the master trainer’s 1,500th Hong Kong win at Sha Tin (Saturday, 11 November).
Bidding to become only the second handler after fellow Australian John Moore (1,735) to prepare 1,500 winners or more in Hong Kong, Size was both reflective and future focused as he contemplated the landmark.
“All the milestones are important and you tick off things as they go along. One thing about records or milestones that you attain, they’re there forever, they’re part of history and they’re pretty important. Hopefully, I’ll get the 1,500 soon and we’ll put it behind us,” said Size, who will saddle 11 runners (on Saturday).
Entered for the LONGINES Hong Kong International Races (HKIR) on 10 December, BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) runner-up Tuchel resumes under Hugh Bowman from barrier six with Size anticipating another strong campaign from the gelding.
“He raced consistently all the way through the season, he was in pretty good shape most of the time and he acquitted himself very well – he just got beaten (a short head by Voyage Bubble) in the Derby and I suppose that was a very good effort,” Size said.
“He’s had a good break and a bit of time off to try and recuperate. He seems alright at the moment and we’ll learn more when we go to the races. He’s got a handicap (135lb) that he has live up to and perform first-up from a break, which is not easy to do, but he’ll have to improve on that to win the race. So, if he can run up to his handicap, he’s probably doing very well.”
With six wins and seven minor placings from 16 starts, Tuchel has advanced from a rating of 52 to 106.
Size will also be represented by another LONGINES HKIR entrant Red Lion, who is again shaping positively after strong recent trials.
“He trials well normally probably because of the surface of the all-weather track at Sha Tin – I think he handles it okay. He does look good in the trials, but he takes it to the races also. He’s been very consistent, he’s a very diligent worker, he likes his training and his racing and he always seems to run a good race in all different track conditions,” Size said.
Red Lion, winner of four of 13 starts in Hong Kong, will be ridden by Alexis Badel from barrier one.
Resuming following after missing five meetings through suspensions, Bowman will also ride David Hall-trained Invincible Sage – another LONGINES HKIR entrant – in the Class 3 Panasonic 4KTV Handicap (1000m) as the bids to cut Zac Purton’s two-win lead in the Hong Kong jockeys’ championship.
“He (Invincible Sage) was dominant off a pretty hot speed last start and hopefully they’ll run along again,” Bowman said. “When I asked him for an effort (last start), his performance was outstanding – I think it’s fair to expect a similar performance.
“I think there’s still progression, he came from Australia with good, consistent form, lightly-raced and he seems to have settled in well, he’s got the right temperament to do well in Hong Kong. I guess this is still a stepping stone but, win, lose or draw tomorrow, I can still see him being effective once he goes up into Class 2, this horse.”
Assessing Hong Kong’s sprinting ranks headed by Lucky Sweynesse and Wellington, Bowman is optimistic Invincible Sage can advance from his current mark of 80 to eventually contend at higher levels.
“Outside of those two (Lucky Sweynesse and Wellington), we’re waiting to see who’s going to put their hand up and I’ll be as interested as everyone else to see where this guy measures up,” Bowman said. “Whether it’s just now or six or 12 months away, he’s a pretty handy horse.”
Saturday’s (11 November) 10-race card at Sha Tin starts with the Class 4 (restricted) Panashop Handicap (1200m) at 1pm (AEDT 16:00).
– News from Hong Kong Jockey Club