Hong Kong’s reigning Champion Trainer John Size and Champion Jockey Joao Moreira have enjoyed plenty of success, both on their own and in tandem. However, few wins will demonstrate their collective mastery quite like Dinozzo’s victory in the Group 3 Centenary Vase Handicap (1800m) at Sha Tin on Sunday (4 February).
Dinozzo (122lb) won a Class 2 handicap over 1650m at Happy Valley on Wednesday night (31 January), after which Size declared that he would run the Lilbourne Lad five-year-old again in Sunday’s feature. The Australian handler is a rare proprietor of the quick back-up, only producing horses off a three or four day lay-off four times this decade.
“I think the winter makes it easier to back up, for the horses at least,” he said. “In the summer, it’s very tough. We only have a very short period of cold weather in Hong Kong so the opportunities aren’t there as much. I did do it quite often when I was training in Sydney, but it was a completely different environment.
“I’ve seen some of the boys do it here though, with good results. It’s just not me, usually. But in this particular case, we had a rating issue in terms of the class. We had a horse that we thought would handle it and we had the climate to help us out. Obviously, he’s handled the back-up from Wednesday night and he’s done what we’d hoped.”
Once the horses had reached the gates, the baton was passed from Size to Moreira. In a manner befitting his status as Champion Jockey, the Brazilian rider took advantage of a lack of pace in the seven-runner field, taking Dinozzo straight to the lead and dictating terms at a moderate tempo.
“Under the circumstances, they let me do everything I wanted in front,” Moreira said. “I was going easy out in front and building up from the 600 metres, so it was going to be hard for them to come and pass him. He’s such a fit horse.”
Size said that he had instructed Moreira to make his own luck on the speed: “It was a race where there was not much speed so rolling to the front on a fit horse was not going to be a damaging tactic for him.”
At the top of the straight, Moreira slipped his charge more rein, with the bay quickly putting up a large margin on his rivals. As a measure of Dinozzo’s dominance on speed, the Tony Cruz-trained runner-up Gold Mount (129lb) produced the third-fastest last sectional over the Sha Tin 1800m in the last four years, only bettered by multiple G1 winners Designs On Rome and Helene Paragon. However, that 21.93s closing split could only get the stayer within three and a half lengths of the winner.
Moreira was full of praise for Size, with the rider saying the horse was in tip-top shape at Sha Tin on Sunday.
“John Size used the race in Happy Valley on Wednesday to prepare him for this and he did it pretty well,” he said. “Wednesday night was pretty much like a barrier trial, in the end. And, obviously, all the credit should go to John.”
Options now may be limited for Dinozzo, with Size not ruling out a start in the G1 Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup (2000m) on 25 February.
“I said there weren’t many options the other day, and it’s going to be even harder now!” he said. “We’ve got the prizemoney at least for the owners, so the plan’s worked in that sense. I will see where he ends up in the ratings tomorrow. I never make any decisions on a racetrack, so let’s wait and see.”
John Moore’s G3 January Cup Handicap (1800m) winner Eagle Way (131lb) finished third with his BMW Hong Kong Derby aspirants Rivet (113lb) and Ruthven (113lb) fifth and sixth respectively.
Size and Moreira later combined for wins with hot favourites Ping Hai Star in the Class 2 Po Tin Handicap (1400m) and Ivictory in the Class 3 Tai Hing Handicap (1200m), while Sir Redalot won the closer, the Class 3 Wu King Handicap (1400m), to give the pair a four-timer apiece.
Elsewhere on the card, Paul O’Sullivan scored a treble across three consecutive races. Grade One opened proceedings with a win in the Class 4 Lung Yat Handicap (1400m) under Sam Clipperton before Rule Thee raced clear of stablemate Acclaimed Light for a three and a half length success in the Class 3 On Ting Handicap (1800m) with Zac Purton in the saddle. Sonic Fighter, with Derek Leung aboard, then scored his first Hong Kong victory in the Class 4 Yan Oi Tong Cup Handicap (1400m) to complete the three-timer.