Bearing down on a record 12th trainers’ championship, John Size is hopeful Sight Spirit can continue an upward career trajectory and claim the HKD$12 million Hong Kong Classic Mile (1600m) at Sha Tin on Sunday (30 January).
Trailing Frankie Lor 42-39 in the championship, Size will saddle Blaze Warrior (Antoine Hamelin) and Master Delight (Joao Moreira), but the master horseman is confident Vagner Borges and Sight Spirit can contend strongly from barrier seven as the Toronado gelding chases his fourth successive victory.
“Sight Spirit is fairly well underrated at present but he hasn’t had too many opportunities. He’s won his last three and he’s still improving so we’ll give him a chance in the four-year-old series and see how far he gets,” Size said.
Borges inherited the Sight Spirit ride after Moreira honoured a commitment to Master Delight, who must overcome barrier 14. Size is hopeful Moreira can capitalise on what is expected to decent speed at the head of the race.
“He might appreciate a race with a true tempo, that’s what we’re hoping for. I think he has difficulty sprinting off a slow speed so if there’s a bit more pressure in the race that might help him,” Size said. “I think the thought all along was that he would run a bit better with a true tempo so I think the day we get one is not the day to be concerned.”
Blaze Warrior, who jumps from barrier five for Hamelin, will don blinkers for Sunday’s contest.
“Blaze Warrior has struggled his last couple of starts in Class 2, Hopefully he goes a bit better at 1600 (metres),” Size said, while Hamelin is equally hopeful of an improved performance.
“He’s feeling good. I think the horse looks ready to perform. I’m very happy to ride him the mile should not be a problem for him. We have a good draw. Everything looks good for him,” the Frenchman said.
Vincent Ho partners The Irishman in the first leg of the HKD$48 million three-race Four-Year-Old Classic Series.
“He feels good. Hopefully we’ll have some genuine pace from the outside, which is good. Hopefully I can be somewhere around midfield. He’s got great potential,” Ho said of Francis Lui’s trainee.
Tony Cruz is unfazed by the daunting draws handed to California Spangle (13) and Ima Single Man (10).
“I’m very happy with California Spangle. What we have planned for him to perform, he has achieved that. Now we’re stepping up a bit further, we still have high hopes he can run out the mile,” Cruz said of the exciting front-runner, who has accumulated five victories from six attempts.
“I believe he should be able to dictate the race and try to win like he’s been doing in the past.
“He’s the fastest horse in the field and I believe he can still dictate the race and go and lead the race.”
“Ima Single Man is sired by Gingerbread Man, I believe he will get the distance. I believe he will get to 2000 (metres). I’m not worried about the distance. I believe he will be racing handy, too. I think he’s still got a shot.
“He’s stepping up but I believe he’s got a shot and he’ll be in the finish. I believe both horses are prepared for the race, I’m not worried about the draw. We’re going to go very close in that race.”
The HKD$3.7 million Group 3 Centenary Vase Handicap (1800m) is the other feature race on Sunday.
Australian jockeys Daniel Moor and Luke Currie will compete at the meeting after completing their three-week quarantine.
Moor rides Celestial Warrior, Fortune Hero, Mr Aldan and Sunny Boy, while Currie partners Miracle Victory, Red Brick Fighter and Swot Troopers Wind.