Excellent Proposal rose to the top of Hong Kong’s four-year-old pecking order with an impressive win in the Hong Kong Classic Mile (1600m) yesterday afternoon (Sunday, 24 January), a result that strengthened trainer John Size’s hand for the remaining two legs of the Four-Year-Old Classic Series, the Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m) and BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m).
Size saddled two of Hong Kong’s brightest talents in the first leg of the three-race age-restricted series and they both sparkled, finishing first and second: Excellent Proposal bounced back to his budding best, while Lucky Express displayed his customary tenacity and vigour.
“I ran a few tests over him (Excellent Proposal) to see if there was anything amiss but I couldn’t find anything and I galloped on the Saturday and trialled him on the Tuesday there was nothing untoward going on with the horse at all – I was always of the opinion that he needed a race to switch him on,” the 11-time champion trainer said.
The son of Exceed And Excel won three races on the bounce this season ranging from 1400m to 1800m, before returning a weakening 11th-placed effort last start following a three-month freshen-up.
“He has a very good temperament, he is a very quiet horse and he probably just missed the competition – he hadn’t raced for three months and it looks like that is correct because today he savaged the line, he knew what he was doing and he was there to win the race,” Size said.
The Australian-bred chestnut arrived in Hong Kong as a PP (Privately Purchased Horse) on a rating of 75 and now will find himself entrenched in triple figures following today’s success.
“Early in the season in September and October I had to ask him for something to see if he was actually capable of running the distance and his last win over 1800 metres was the deciding factor that we should probably run him in the series.
“So, therefore I needed to give him some time off to recharge his batteries and get a bit of maturity and strength into him physically,” Size said.
Excellent Proposal positioned third-last in the 13-runner contest, peeled wide under Australian rider Blake Shinn at the 300m mark to quicken decisively, clocking the fastest final 400m of the HK$12 million race in 23.39s, on his way to an overall time of 1m 33.81s.
“I think at this point I am happy with the outcome so far and he’ll just continue on to the next two legs and hopefully he can be competitive in them as well,” Size said.
As for Lucky Express, the ex-Australian galloper was also posted close to tail of the field along near to his stablemate but instead, settled for an inside run, weaving into second place under Karis Teetan.
“You’d have to say that’s a pleasing effort from him, he’s had three runs over the mile and although he has been beaten in three of them he has acquitted himself in all three.
“Today with the luxury of a little bit of pace in the race he was able to settle and really go to sleep actually so therefore his sprint comes into play in the finish of the race he is able to his use his power,” Size said.
The 94-rater has hit the ground running in Hong Kong with seven top-three efforts from nine starts, including one win and will most likely push on to the second leg of the series.
“At the moment I’ll have a closer look at the performance and the running of the race tomorrow but it’s certainly likely that he’ll run in the Classic Cup,” Size said.
The win was the second of a treble for John Size who earlier, claimed the Group 1 Centenary Sprint Cup (1200m) with Hot King Prawn before Sight Success remained unbeaten with victory in the finale, the Class 3 Peniaphobia Handicap (1200m).
Gratifying win for Shinn
Blake Shinn describes his time in Hong Kong as ‘testing’ but after declaring his intent to stay with a contract extension to season-end, the Australian got the boost he desired in today’s HK$12 million Hong Kong Classic Mile.
“Honestly it’s really gratifying, it’s been a testing time since I have been in Hong Kong but I’ve just had to remain positive and keep believing in myself,” Shinn said.
The Australian – with only four rides at Sha Tin today – notched his ninth win this term thanks to a patient drive atop +2200 shot Excellent Proposal in the first leg of the Four-Year-Old Classic Series.
“Honestly I couldn’t have won this race without John Size – he instilled faith in me and he’s the first and foremost person that I have to thank as well my close knit people behind me that have really had faith in me and have continued to support me on my journey in Hong Kong.
“This win is for all of those people and obviously myself – I’ve just kept sticking it out, that’s life you just have to ride the tough times and something is good is just around the corner and here we are,” Shinn said.
“We had a really good run back in the field and that was our plan to let the horse (Excellent Proposal) just settle and bide our time and then bring him with one run,” Shinn said.