Brett Prebble is optimistic that his old ally Contentment is peaking just in time to shake up Sunday’s (10 December) Group One Hong Kong Mile.
The Australian ace has ridden John Size’s stable stalwart in 15 of his last 16 starts for two wins, both group one scores. The pair teamed for the gelding’s well-deserved first elite win in the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup in February 2016, and again last May when they edged Sunday’s rival Beauty Only in the Champions Mile.
A poor 10th-place finish in Japan’s Group One Yasuda Kinen in June under Joao Moreira seemed to knock the edge off the usually consistent chestnut. This term’s first-up run resulted in a disappointing ninth-place finish behind Beauty Generation in the Group Three Celebration Cup Handicap.
Prebble said he felt the horse had a different mindset after the Japan run.
“I knew he was jaded after coming back from Japan,” he said of the seven-year-old.
“He definitely wasn’t the same horse for a while there. He’s normally very fast and tows you into a trial or race and he just didn’t have that zest. I thought maybe he was just more relaxed going into his races, but then he actually took that into his race.
“That proved the edge was off him and he wasn’t as happy to do it.”
His work was cut out for him, but John Size is not a nine-time Hong Kong champion trainer for nothing.
The handler utilised his simplest yet most effective tool – patience. Since that 1 October return, Contentment has been kept to the training track with two barrier trials to sharpen him into his group one assignment.
“His first trial told me he was coming back, he felt like he was a happy horse again,” Prebble said.
“He’s come out and he’s trialled well again a week or so ago. He didn’t trial with horses that were high in the ratings, but as is normal for John, we used it as an exercise and he’s gone on all the way up the straight outside of runners with a partner, it was like a working gallop.”
Contentment cast a shadow on the 67-rated Silverfield’s flank to cross the line an easy second in that 1200m all-weather track trial.
“His action’s good, he’s very happy in himself and he seems very alert, so that’s what John was looking for, I think,” Prebble added.
The two-time Melbourne champion jockey has no fear that Contentment can turn up in peak condition despite a long break between races. Four years ago, Size sent Glorious Days into the Hong Kong Mile without a single run that term and the gelding prevailed.
“John’s a freak, he’s a genius,” Prebble said.
“He’s won this race in the past on a first-up preparation. Not many trainers would have the nerve to do that. He knows his horses and he knows his own ability.
“If Contentment turns up on the day, he’ll be a win factor. If he doesn’t, he’ll run his length and a half behind them and win some money. He just always runs his race, or he has a peak performance.
WATCH: Contentment holds off Beauty Only in the Champions Mile for Brett Prebble and John Size. Favourite Rapper Dragon broke down. pic.twitter.com/dXanwloc4e
— Racing UK (@Racing_UK) May 7, 2017
“I’ve said before, he hits that peak once or twice a year and hopefully it’s this Sunday.”
Prebble respects the international opposition he will face at the weekend.
The line-up will feature Yasuda Kinen winner Satono Aladdin, last year’s one-two Beauty Only and Helene Paragon, as well as Irish raiders Roly Poly and Lancaster Bomber, but the ex-Aussie knows Contentment has form in the book as good as any.
“He ran second to Maurice in the Champions Mile a couple of seasons back and that was one of his best races,” Prebble said.
“He gave him a real good race for a long stretch that day and then his ability at the last just wasn’t as good as his rival, but Maurice was a champion.
“There’s no Maurice this year.
“He doesn’t have to go to that level. He’s ultra-consistent and if he turns up he’ll run his race and he’ll take some beating.”