The unbeaten Courier Wonder is poised to make an eagerly awaited return to racing in next month’s Group 2 Premier Bowl Handicap (1200m) on Sunday, 17 October after pleasing trainer John Size at Sha Tin this morning (Tuesday, 21 September).
Tuning up for his seasonal return with a barrier trial on the dirt under jockey Joao Moreira, the 107-rater stretched out under his own steam, crossing the line first in 1m 02.05s (1050m) ahead of Circuit Booming and Spend, respectively.
“He seems alright, it looks like everything is working, I’ll know more when I go home and check him but he’s been good, he’s come back fine, so we’ll give him another trial and see what he looks like then,” Size said.
Boasting a perfect five-for-five record, the smart racer by Sacred Falls made a rapid ascent through the grades last term to snatch Group 3 glory at his final run, claiming the Sha Tin Vase Handicap (1200m).
“We’ll trial him again and then based on what he does then we’ll make a plan from there, there’s not too many options, so it’s just matter of whether he runs on the 17th (of October) or not, but at the moment I would think he’s ok,” the handler said.
The prodigious talent won the end of season Group 3 as the least experienced runner in the race, securing a classy victory against a collection of the circuit’s fastest horses, the majority of which he will meet again as he builds towards December’s Group 1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (1200m).
The galloper incurred a 55-point hike in the ratings for his first season heroics as a three-year-old, earning the mantle as Hong Kong’s Most Improved Horse at the 2020/21 Champion Awards.
“There doesn’t seem to be a lot of change between seasons but we’re hoping that he lives up to his rating and that he keeps up with that and improves, his age can help him there and with his inexperience he should have more in him,” Size said.
The four-year-old was a NZD$150,000 (approx. HKD$819,543) purchase out of the 2019 Karaka National Yearling Sale in New Zealand. He is also a full brother to Icebath, runner-up in the Group 1 Doncaster Mile Handicap (1600m) at Randwick in Sydney, Australia last April.
Size noted that Hong Kong’s Champion Sprinter Hot King Prawn is nearing a return, hopeful of yet another tilt at the Hong Kong Sprint (1200m).
“He’s working and he looks good – he’s an older horse so every day is a different day.
“He might not make it for the 17th (of October) – he’s a bit behind schedule for that but he might make it for the 21st (of November) and then the International Races,” Size explained.
A seven-year-old now, the steel grey son of Denman grabbed a maiden Group 1 title in last season’s Centenary Sprint Cup (1200m) and has proven an incredibly consistent performer across his 24-start career.
“I’m not pressing to get too many runs out of him, just a couple,” Size said. “It’s up to him, I just have to observe him and see what’s going on and when to stop him.”
Also trialling for Size this morning was Silver Express, Gallant Express, Fantastic Way, Red Cadenza and Pins Prince.
This Sunday (26 September), Size has Champion’s Way entered for the season’s first Group race, the Group 3 Celebration Cup Handicap (1400m) at Sha Tin.
“He’s been a good work horse, he does his job, he doesn’t win many races nowadays but if he’s in a good mood he runs well and gets some prize money,” Size said.
A seven-time winner in Hong Kong, Champion’s Way boasts the 2021 Group 3 Chinese Club Challenge Cup Handicap (1400m) among his record.
“He seems alright, he’s been racing and he hasn’t had much of a break but because of his class there isn’t too many races for him,”
Also entered for the race is Tourbillon Diamond, Decrypt, Russian Emperor, Buddies, Southern Legend, Sky Darci, Mighty Giant and Duke Wai.
“This is a handicap, so he’s got some chance in a handicap, opposed to set weights races against horses that are better than him it’s harder,” Size said. “Karis (Teetan) will ride him.”
Earlier at Wednesday’s (22 September) midweek fixture at Happy Valley, Size has four entrants across the eight-race card, kicking off with A Smile Like Yours (117lb) in the Class 4 Moorsom Handicap (1200m).
“He hasn’t won a race but he looks due soon off last start, if he can repeat that he’s going to have a good chance,” Size said.
The five-year-old has mixed his form but did close nicely to finish third last start, beaten by a length over this course and distance.
“He’s done alright, he seems alright it’s just a matter of if he can repeat,” Size said.