Positivity emanated from the John Size camp after Nothingilikemore strolled through a barrier trial at Sha Tin Racecourse on Tuesday morning, just five days out from the HK$18 million BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m).
It was the second trial inside seven days for the Hong Kong Classic Mile (1600m) victor, whose aura of supremacy took a dent last time out when only fourth behind Singapore Sling in the Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m). Nothingilikemore missed the start in that latter contest and then lost a bar shoe, but there was no sign of loose plates today, nor any hint of tardiness.
“I was extremely pleased,” jockey Joao Moreira said after the 112-rated galloper had passed the post in front in the 1200m dirt track trial. “Hopefully he can reproduce this kind of attitude and performance in the race on Sunday (18 March).”
The Husson gelding ran on for meritorious gains in the Hong Kong Classic Cup, leaving supporters to rue the slow start that Size and Moreira put down to a lack of concentration: hence a trial so close to the big day.
“He’s been a little bit upset at the gates on race day,” Size said. “He’s missed the start twice this season just by not concentrating on the start. So we had to do a little bit of work with him to try and rectify that. I’ve done what I wanted to do and I hope that he presents and behaves himself better at the races on Sunday.
“The trials were to try and get him to settle down a little bit.”
Moreira was satisfied with Nothingilikemore’s exemplary behaviour today.
“He gave me no signs of being silly,” he said. “We’ve done some work with him at the gate and he’s been coping nicely. I’m very pleased that John gave him a trial today, that will tune him up and he’ll be 100 percent for the race on Sunday.”
John Size and Joao Moreira were pleased with Nothingilikemore’s 1200m dirt track trial on Tuesday morning, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club
The Champion Jockey, whose record on the Derby’s top-rated galloper stands at five wins from seven starts, shed light on the antics that seemed to cost Nothingilikemore in last month’s Four-Year-Old Classic Series second leg.
“He’s been shaking his head up and down a lot in the gate and that’s a concern because there’s nothing more we can do,” Moreira said. “Doing that means he may miss his concentration - he’s a very sharp type of a horse, if he notices the gate is open, he’s going to jump as quickly as he can but unfortunately last time he put his head down, as if he was going to shake it up and down, the gates opened, his head came up and he’d missed the start.
“I’m quite confident it’s not going to happen on Sunday but we’ll find out in the race if it’s all really worked.”
Nothingilikemore is slated to line up in a full field of 14 in the third and final leg of this year’s Four-Year-Old Classic Series. The Australian-bred will face the three horses that finished ahead of him in the Classic Cup - Singapore Sling, Exultant and The Golden Age - having beaten the first two convincingly in January’s Classic Mile.
“I think this will be a similar style of race to the Classic Mile and the Classic Cup, it’s the same horses, so he’ll probably begin better and take up a better position. That might help him finish in the prize money.” Size said of his charge, who heads into a first attempt at 2000m with a stamina query to answer.
“The trip is always a concern,” Size added.
And on the lost shoe that garnered plenty of post-race attention last time, Moreira said: “From where I come from, if a horse runs without one of their shoes, they can get a little bit unbalanced and aren’t able to deliver the form that you expect them to.
“John doesn’t seem to think that the horse was very affected because he still ran a very good race, he didn't finish too far behind the winner. There was an excuse with missing the start, but the horse himself is what we need to be worried about and instead of being worried, I’m extremely happy.”
The BMW Hong Kong Derby field also features G1 winners Ruthven and Rivet from the John Moore stable, as well as the exciting Size-trained improver Ping Hai Star, the mount of Ryan Moore.