Mr Stunning stamped himself as the horse to beat in next month’s G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) with a comfortable victory in the traditional local lead-up, the G2 BOCHK Wealth Management Jockey Club Sprint (1200m), at Sha Tin on Sunday afternoon.
Nash Rawiller (red) and Mr Stunning leave the field behind, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club
In a sign of the strength of reigning Champion Trainer John Size’s sprinting stock, Mr Stunning, under Nash Rawiller, led home a 1-2-3-5 for the stable. Amazing Kids (Brett Prebble) and D B Pin (Olivier Doleuze) fought out second, a length and a half behind the winner, while Thewizardofoz (Joao Moreira) made up ground from last to finish fifth.
“They’ve all run very pleasingly,” Size said. “Mr Stunning seemed to dominate today, but it all depends on the way the race is run in three weeks. That race could be run at a different tempo, which could give us a different result. Mr Stunning still has to produce it again in three weeks, but if he pulls up well, he should be able to repeat the run.
“This preparation, though, he has done everything perfectly. He’s obviously a nice horse to train, he’s relatively straightforward and similarly, on raceday, he’s pretty good for the jockeys too.”
Winners - Mr Stunning and Rawiller, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club
In what was a messy affair, Peniaphobia controlled the tempo early under Matthew Chadwick. However, he slowed the pace considerably at the 600m, causing the field to bunch and placing 2.4 favourite Lucky Bubbles in an awkward position on the inside of horses near the rear.
For Lucky Bubbles, a clear run was not forthcoming at any point in the stretch and he went to the line ninth of the 10 runners but hard-held, almost five lengths from Mr Stunning. It was a run reminiscent of Aerovelocity’s last-placed finish in the same race in 2014; a start later, he won the Hong Kong Sprint.
“Disaster,” jockey Zac Purton stated succinctly.
One horse not affected by the race’s changing complexion on the circle, though, was Mr Stunning, with Rawiller saying the five-year-old was able to adapt to the notable change in tempo.
“He’s an absolute star, he’s so push-button,” Rawiller said. “Today, he jumped first out of the gates and I dropped my hands on his neck and he just came straight back under me. He was a dream to ride throughout the run. Even when the pace slowed up dramatically, it probably put the whole race out of whack, but he’s nimble on his feet and he was able to capitalise on that.
“I was able to roll forward into the race and he put it beyond doubt at the 300m, he was travelling very comfortably and it was just a matter of letting him go to win the race.”
Size, who won the 2008 Jockey Club Sprint with Enthused, has only had one previous HKIR winner from 37 starters. That was Glorious Days, who won the Hong Kong Mile first-up in 2013.
However, Rawiller is confident that the eight-time Champion Trainer can win his first Hong Kong Sprint on 10 December.
“Mr Size is a master at dealing with these types of horses,” Rawiller said. “There are going to be horses around him that will improve, just as he will, but I think he’s going to be the one to beat, that’s for sure.”
Amazing Kids made up good ground to finish second, although Prebble believed he was fortunate to hold the runner-up spot.
“He ran super,” Prebble said. “He gave me a good kick, but the winner is just too good. He held on for a nice second, but he was probably lucky to run second – the third horse should have beaten him home.”
That third horse was last season’s Most Improved Horse D B Pin, who put himself forward as a potential Hong Kong Sprint candidate with the best effort of his career.
“It was the first time I had the chance to sit on him,” Doleuze said. “I’m very pleased with his performance. I think that if he can produce a similar run in the internationals, he will be in the finish.”
Mr Stunning stopped the clock in 1m 09.33s, the slowest Jockey Club Sprint win since the race was upped to 1200m in 2006.
Selected runners for all four of the 10 December LONGINES Hong Kong International Races – the HK$25 million G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup (2000m), the HK$23 million G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile (1600m), the HK$18.5 million G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) and the HK$18 million G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Vase (2400m) – will be announced on Wednesday, 22 November.
Nash Rawiller, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club