John Size is looking to land a third consecutive win in Sunday’s (20 October) Group 2 Premier Bowl Handicap (1200m) and has lined up a trio of worthy candidates, featuring last-start victor Full Of Beauty, past Champion Sprinter Ivictory and the talented Gunnison.
The 11-time champion trainer has carried off the prize in the past two seasons with Mr Stunning (2017) and Hot King Prawn (2018), and Full Of Beauty will attempt to emulate the latter by adding this race to a lead-up win in the Group 3 National Day Cup (1000m).
Size’s rising star won that 1000m dash in a speedy 55.16s under Joao Moreira. That took the Darci Brahma gelding’s overall record to six wins from nine starts to reach a classy rating of 111, 59 points higher than his debut figure – he is set to carry 120lb.
“I think in a handicap he’s competitive, set weights might be a different story but while he’s in the handicap I think he has a good chance. He has a good record now; he did his best at his first start back so it’s a pretty good sign,” Size said.
The five-year-old will now aim to take another step forward, and, following his first-up effort down the straight, Moreira has no worries about returning to the 1200m at which his mount raced exclusively last term for five wins.
“Full Of Beauty has done nothing to suggest that I shouldn’t be believing in and having faith in him, even though he was green last time over the 1000 (metres), that was an excuse as it was his first time in a straight line – he was certainly looking for a corner – so I think going back to the turn is a plus,” Moreira said.
“The other day he was very green and he wasn’t aware of what he was there for, trying to shy away from horses and he didn’t really jump that well but he still made it.”
Ivictory’s last win came 18 months ago in the Group 1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize (1200m) when he beat Mr Stunning and Beat The Clock to give Size the trifecta. The six-year-old has not raced since January, having gone to post five times without success in the first half of last term.
“He’s been disappointing his last few runs, so he’s had a long break since then and he seems healthy,” Size said.
The Mossman gelding set Happy Valley alight when clocking a slick 1m 08.52s, a 1200m course record, in March 2018, prompting a leap from that Class 2 win straight to his sole Group 1 score and Champion Sprinter honours.
That leaves Ivictory at the top of Sunday’s handicap with 133lb, thanks to a rating of 124. The bay posted his best effort first-up last season and has warmed up for his comeback with a couple of trials under race day rider Blake Shinn.
“He’s had a couple of trials and they’ve been fair so I think we’ll go to the races and see how he comes back,” Size said.
Meanwhile, two-time Hong Kong winner Gunnison will step out in Sunday’s affair as a featherweight chance, being the lowest rated horse in Sunday’s contest off a mark of 104. That places him at the foot of the handicap with 113lb.
“Because he came as a two-year-old rated 85 I didn’t run him until the end of February in his three-year-old year, just to give him a chance to catch up to Class 2 horses – they’re pretty strong,” Size said.
The Not A Single Doubt gelding arrived in Hong Kong with an impressive resume in Australia, unbeaten across two starts – his latest win coming in the Group 2 Todman Stakes at Randwick where he beat subsequent Group 1 Sires’ Produce winner Invader as well as subsequent Group 1 place-getters Showtime and Menari.
“I’ve been very pleased with what he’s been able to achieve, so even though he’s 104 and even though he’s sort of stretched to that – it’s still a handicap race and every horse has a chance, so he’s on the 113 (pounds) and if something good happens for him he’s going to get some prizemoney,” Size added.
Pakistan Star (131lb), Rattan (132lb), Wishful Thinker (127lb), Seasons Bloom (125lb) and Good Standing (116lb) complete the exciting line-up.
The Group 2 Premier Bowl (1200m) is one of two Group 2 events on the 10-race card, which also features Beauty Generation in the Group 2 Oriental Watch Sha Tin Trophy (1600m).