Jockey Karis Teetan compared Hot King Prawn to a Formula 1 machine after the charismatic grey scored a maiden stakes victory over last term’s Champion Sprinter Ivictory in the season’s first Group race, the Group 3 National Day Cup Handicap (1000m) at Sha Tin today (Monday, 1 October).
“I know how Lewis Hamilton feels now, that was unbelievable,” Teetan said, shaking his head in disbelief, as he returned to the winners’ circle aboard Hot King Prawn. “This is a proper horse, a Group 1 horse.”
The John Size-trained Hot King Prawn (117lb) entered today’s sprint feature as a winner of six of his seven starts, including five victories over the Sha Tin 1000m. Unlike most of those successes, though, where the son of Denman had led or shared the front, the gelding instead found himself in a trailing position as Fabulous One set the early speed.
“If you’d seen him on the way to the gates, you wouldn’t know he was a sprinter,” Teetan said.
“He goes down to the start like he doesn’t want to do anything, he’s so quiet – he’s a lamb, he just saves so much energy before the race.
“But when those gates open, it’s like he’s a different animal altogether. He switches on and he’s focused on what he has to do. He’s like a car that goes straight from a stop to turbo speed, it’s quite something. Today, he got a trail behind Fabulous One and he was breathing so nicely underneath me, he started to wind up and I knew I had plenty of horse. I pressed the button and he chased well, he was pricking his ears a little bit actually.”
At the 400m, Teetan clicked up Hot King Prawn three off the outside fence, but looming ominously down that favoured straight-track path was stablemate Ivictory (133lb).
The last-start Group 1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize (1200m) winner, ridden by Zac Purton, appeared to be travelling better of the two Size speedsters and even got a head to a neck in front entering the final furlong.
However, the 16lb pull in the weights clearly told in the final strides as Ivictory succumbed to Hot King Prawn’s assault, with ‘the Prawn’ prevailing by three-quarters of a length. The Francis Lui-trained Jumbo Luck (113lb) finished third, just ahead of stablemate Doctor Geoff (114lb).
“I’m very happy with both of my sprinters, they both ran well,” Size said.
“It looked normal for them and they both have got somewhere to go with that. I think they can progress from that. With Hot King Prawn, he seems to have matured exactly the way you would hope he would, he’s a little bit stronger and he was nice and relaxed going down behind the gate and in the run. That will help him with the 1200m next start.”
The path for Group-class sprinters is laid out clearly: next is the Group 2 Premier Bowl Handicap (1200m) on 21 October, followed by the Group 2 Jockey Club Sprint (1200m) at set weights and penalties on 18 November, before the big dance, the Group 1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) on 9 December.
Teetan, Hot King Prawn still needs to go to another level to figure in these races, but the Mauritian jockey has confidence that the four-year-old is capable of reaching those heights.
“I think we know how good he is, I definitely think he’s one of the best I’ve ridden here,” said Teetan, who has partnered the likes of Able Friend, Designs On Rome and Glorious Days during his five-year Hong Kong career.
“I think now he’s just going to have to keep taking steps to prove that he is in the elite league. I think he is, though – he’s the young horse on the rise, while the older horses are on the way down.”
One horse that isn’t on the way down is Ivictory. At just his second start in a Group race, coming off a 33-point rise since his last handicap victory at Happy Valley in March, the five-year-old’s effort in defeat was admirable and a positive sign heading towards the bigger races at the end of the year.
“That was encouraging for what’s ahead,” Purton said. “He wasn’t really ready for today’s assignment and he’s run very well. The weight beat him in the end but he showed his class to be right there.”
Size added: “He was travelling very well there for a while, the weight might just have told on him the last little bit. That’s a big margin, the 16 pounds, but I’m very happy with him going forward.”
The final time of 56 seconds flat was Hot King Prawn’s fastest time from six wins at the course and distance, but it was more than six-tenths of a second outside Bundle Of Joy’s race record of 55.38s from 2014.
The grey also joined Group 1 winners Fairy King Prawn and Jeune King Prawn as a black type winner for owner Philip Lau.