Unbeaten galloper Conte continued his rise through the grades with a professional win in the Class 2 Kwong Wah Handicap (1600m) at Sha Tin on Saturday (10 February), but trainer John Size indicated the four-year-old may now take a break before he attempts to make it six in a row.
Conte (123lb), who had found himself in a pace-setting role in most of his wins to date, instead was amongst the chasing bunch on Saturday, settling third under jockey Joao Moreira behind fellow four-year-olds Lockheed (125lb) and Dragon Lips (125lb).
At the top of the straight, Moreira chased Conte through a gap that appeared near the inside, but Tommy Berry, riding second favourite Easy Go Easy Win (123lb), attempted to steal a break centre track. In what developed into a tough battle over the final 200m, the two market-elects raced clear; at the line, Conte had a half-length to spare over Easy Go Easy Win, with Lockheed holding down third two and a quarter lengths away.
“Conte can’t do much more than win, so from that point of view I’m pleased,” Size said. “It was a slowly-run race and he was held up at times, but I thought it was a tough effort for him to beat the other horse so it was still a very good effort. We thought he might lead but other riders wanted to lead so it just made his job a little bit easier. It’s more been by circumstance that he’s ended up on the lead in the past, but I was never concerned about him settling behind runners.
“I’m not sure if he’ll keep running,” the trainer continued. “He’s won five races so he might be looking for a little break. I’ll make that decision in a couple of weeks. He’s done a good job though to get as far as he has so I’m not really planning ahead with him.”
Size then made it a double in the closer, the Class 2 Po Yan Handicap (1200m), when 9/1 shot Perpetual Joyance (124lb) rattled home off a brisk tempo to score under Olivier Doleuze. The handler’s House Of Fun (133lb), sent off favourite, finished third under Moreira.
“It was a very fast-run race, they went a little too quick,” Size said. “House Of Fun was there to win the race, but Perpetual Joyance was able to take advantage of the fast pace and he was the last horse on the scene so he gets the victory. He needs a solid tempo – he’s better at Happy Valley because they roll along but he doesn’t usually get that speed here, but today he did. He’s been amazingly consistent though, so he’s done very well.”