Jockey Nash Rawiller can vividly recall the moment he discovered he would have the chance to ride John Size’s G2 BOCHK Wealth Management Jockey Club Sprint candidate Mr Stunning on the path to December’s HK$18.5 million G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (1200m).
“Mr Size plays his cards pretty close to his chest and the first time I knew that I was on him was picking up the trial sheets one Thursday morning last month and seeing I was on him in a heat the next day,” Rawiller said at Sha Tin trackwork on Friday morning (17 November). “It was a bit of a surprise, but I was thrilled – it’s always exciting when you get a ride like this, certainly.
“That was the first trial I rode him in, and fortunately after that, he said I could keep the ride for his next race. That was exciting in itself and he did the job brilliantly that day.”
That day was 22 October, when Mr Stunning had to carry top-weight of 133lb against some of Hong Kong’s best speedsters in the G2 Premier Bowl Handicap (1200m). Defying the impost, the Exceed And Excel gelding unleashed a powerful run from midfield to overhaul his G1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize (1200m) conqueror Lucky Bubbles by a half-length, stamping him as arguably Hong Kong’s premier sprinter.
“In the race the other day, he landed in a nice enough spot to give him his chance to build momentum into the race,” Rawiller recalled. “Obviously, he finished off very strongly and did it pretty comfortably in the end. He should take some benefit from that run too, so I’m looking forward to Sunday.”
Mr Stunning and Nash Rawiller, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club
Now, Mr Stunning lines up in Sunday’s Jockey Club Sprint, the main trial race for next month’s Hong Kong Sprint. Seven of Mr Stunning’s rivals from the Premier Bowl Handicap line up again, but this time under set weights and penalties, with the five-year-old meeting all bar his stablemate Thewizardofoz better at the weights.
“It looks a great race for him in terms of the weights,” Rawiller said. “It will take a good performance from the others to be able to beat him, that’s for sure.”
Mr Stunning prepared for Sunday’s feature with a 1050m barrier trial on the Sha Tin dirt seven days ago. Leading throughout, he had a half-length on stablemate Beat The Clock at the post.
“His trial the other day was amazing, really,” Rawiller said. “He just travelled so strongly and so easily and he felt terrific. Actually, he just seems to be the complete package now – both trials I’ve ridden him in, he’s been fantastic. Hopefully it carries across to raceday.”
Mr Stunning is one of four Size trainees in the HK$4 million contest, with G3 winners Thewizardofoz (Joao Moreira) and Amazing Kids (Brett Prebble) joined by emerging sprinter D B Pin (Olivier Doleuze).
Amazing Kids finished at a rate of knots to collect third behind Mr Stunning in the Premier Bowl, but Prebble concedes it will be a difficult task on Sunday. However, Mr Stunning is not the stablemate he is most concerned about.
“I think the way Thewizardofoz trialled the other day, I think we are all running for second, to be honest,” Prebble said, referring to Thewizardofoz’s five and three-quarter length trial ‘win’ in slick time last Friday (10 November), with Amazing Kids third that day.
“He probably just comes up a bit short often in these sorts of races,” the rider continued. “That’s why he gets forgotten a little bit. If it was over five furlongs (1000m), he wouldn’t be forgotten, his form over that trip is strong. But I think he’s had a lovely preparation and it’s time for him to put his hand up now.
“He was behind the other horses early, but he’s fit now and I think he’s at a point now where he’s probably going to peak. Last time out, he just died on his run a little bit late, which was just his fitness being exposed, but I don’t think that will happen on Sunday. Whether it’s enough to take the next step to win and turn the tables on the top two, I’m not sure, but the feeling he gives me, he’s got the ability to do it.”
Also lining up in the Jockey Club Sprint, scheduled as Sunday’s seventh race, are G1 winner Lucky Bubbles, carrying a 5lb penalty, as well as previous winners of the race Peniaphobia (2014) and Not Listenin’tome (2016). G3 winners Lucky Year and Dashing Fellow also contest the feature, with Bad Boy and Southern Legend completing the 11-strong field.
The Jockey Club Sprint is one of three lead-up races for the 10 December LONGINES Hong Kong International Races. Sunday’s sixth race is the G2 BOCHK Jockey Club Cup (2000m), a prep race for the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup (2000m) and G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Vase (2400m), while Sunday’s eighth event is the G2 BOCHK Wealth Management Jockey Club Mile, the primary trial for the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile.
Racing kicks off at Sha Tin at 1pm.