Hot King Prawn (130lb) will experience a Happy Valley race night for the first time on Wednesday, the talented grey’s assignment being the Class 2 Wong Nai Chung Gap Handicap (1200m).
The three-year-old is one of a raft of bright young talents in the John Size stable, having impressed with five wins down the Sha Tin straight (1000m), the latest three coming late last year. The Denman gelding’s perfect record ended when stepped up to 1200m at the big track on 29 April, but he still posted a highly-creditable performance in finishing second.
“It was a pretty good effort - it was a high-pressure race on a big day so I think he did well,” Size said of his charge’s most recent run on the Champions Day undercard.
That first attempt at 1200m saw Hot King Prawn race prominently under top-weight of 133lb, succumbing only to the late swoop of Wishful Thinker, an opponent in receipt of 17lb.
“The race was a pretty tough run for him, but he’s had plenty of time to get over it and he’s worked well since, he looks good so I think he’ll be ok. We’re looking forward to him going on from there. Hopefully, he’ll improve and get a little bit more strength,” Size said.
Zac Purton, holding a one-win lead in the jockeys’ premiership, will maintain his partnership with the rising star. The pair will break from gate one in the field of 12.
“He’s a speed horse, he gets up there pretty handy,” Size said. “If he’s not leading he’ll be very close to the lead, so he’ll have some horses to guide him around. Normally, he’s pretty well behaved so I’m hoping the pressure of Happy Valley won’t upset him too much.”
Hot King Prawn and Zac Purton, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club
Size has utilised patience with a horse that has risen 33lb for his four runs this term.
“My approach was to take it a little easier on him because he’s going up in the ratings so quickly and he’s still young by Hong Kong standards. He turns four in August and I think in six months’ time he might be a much stronger horse,” he said.
The handler revealed that even with the season entering its final month, Wednesday night might not be the last time the Australian-bred sees action this term.
“There is another race at Happy Valley but I’ll be guided by Wednesday night as to whether he’ll run again or not,” Size added.
The evening’s class standout also features top-weight Archippus (133lb), the mount of Purton’s title rival Joao Moreira, back from a two-meeting suspension.
The Champion Jockey, who last week announced his decision to leave Hong Kong at the end of the season, is looking forward to a tough contest with Purton through the campaign’s final nine race meetings.
“I want to make the rest of my time here the best I can. I will try to ride the best I can and the best horses I can - I will try to win as many races as I can. Zac and I will put on a good fight and we should make it inspiring for other kids that are coming up,” he said.
“It’s going to be very exciting: we’re going for it.”
Moreira will ride the David Hall-trained Heroic Guru (133lb), top-weight in race two, the Class 4 Mount Nicholson Handicap (1650m).
“You just have to hope he turns up in his best mood because when he’s in a bad mood he can do silly things like hang out,” the Brazilian said of the seven-year-old, a winner of four from 43 starts.
“When I won on him, he ducked out and almost threw the race away. If his mind is on the job and he does it straightforward, I’m convinced that he’s a winning chance.”
Wednesday’s eight-race card starts at 7.15pm with the Class 5 Mount Cameron Handicap (1800m) and concludes at 10.50pm with the Class 3 Violet Hill Handicap (1200m).