Prebble finds Contentment in Size’s patient approach to the LONGINES Hong Kong Mile
Brett Prebble is optimistic that his old ally Contentment is peaking just in time to shake up Sunday’s G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile.
The Australian ace has ridden John Size’s stable stalwart in 15 of his last 16 starts for two wins, both Group 1 scores. The pair teamed for the gelding’s well-deserved first elite win in the February, 2016 Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup (1400m), and again last May when they edged Sunday’s rival Beauty Only in the Champions Mile (1600m).
A dismal effort in Japan’s G1 Yasuda Kinen (1600m) in June, with Joao Moreira in the plate, seemed to knock the edge off the usually consistent chestnut. Contentment’s first-up run this term resulted in a disappointing ninth-place finish behind Beauty Generation in the G3 Celebration Cup Handicap (1400m).
“I knew he was jaded after coming back from Japan,” Prebble said of the seven-year-old. “He definitely wasn’t the same horse for a while there. He’s normally very fast and tows you into a trial or race and he just didn't have that zest. I thought maybe he was just more relaxed going into his races, but then he actually took that into his race. That proved the edge was off him and he wasn’t as happy to do it.”
But Size is not a nine-time Hong Kong champion trainer for nothing. The handler utilised his simplest yet most effective tool - patience. Since that 1 October return, Contentment has been kept to the training track, with two barrier trials to sharpen him into his G1 assignment.
“His first trial told me he was coming back, he felt like he was a happy horse again,” Prebble said. “He’s come out and he’s trialled well again a week or so ago. He didn't trial with horses that were high in the ratings, but as is normal for John, we used it as an exercise and he’s gone on all the way up the straight outside of runners with a partner, it was like a working gallop.”
Contentment and Brett Prebble, picture Liesl King
Contentment cast a shadow on the 67-rated Silverfield’s flank to cross the wire an easy second in that 1200m all-weather track trial.
“His action’s good, he’s very happy in himself and he seems very alert, so that’s what John was looking for, I think,” Prebble said.
And the two-time Melbourne champion jockey has no fear that Contentment can turn up in peak condition despite a long break between races. Four years ago, Size sent Glorious Days into the LONGINES Hong Kong Mile without a single run that term and the gelding prevailed.
“John’s a freak, he’s a genius,” Prebble enthused. “He’s won this race in the past on a first-up preparation. Not many trainers would have the nerve to do that. He knows his horses and he knows his own ability.
“If Contentment turns up on the day, he’ll be a win factor. If he doesn’t, he'll run his length and a half behind them and win some money. He just always runs his race, or he has a peak performance. I’ve said before, he hits that peak once or twice a year and hopefully it’s this Sunday.”
Prebble respects the international opposition he will face at the weekend - a line-up that will feature his Yasuda Kinen conqueror Satono Aladdin, last year’s one-two Beauty Only and Helene Paragon, as well as Irish raiders Roly Poly and Lancaster Bomber - but he knows Contentment has form in the book as good as any.
“He ran second to Maurice in the Champions Mile a couple of seasons back and that was one of his best races,” Prebble said. “He gave him a real good race for a long stretch that day and then his ability at the last just wasn’t as good as his rival, but Maurice was a champion.
“There’s no Maurice this year,” he added. “He doesn’t have to go to that level. He’s ultra-consistent and if he turns up he’ll run his race and he’ll take some beating.”