Having previously triumphed in the opening leg of the Four-Year-Old Classic Series with Sun Jewellery (2016), Nothingilikemore (2018) and Excellent Proposal (2021), Hong Kong's master trainer is strongly represented this season by Helios Express, who starts from barrier six under Hugh Bowman and Howdeepisyourlove, who jumps starts from gate nine under James McDonald.
The winner of four of six Hong Kong starts, Helios Express has risen to a rating of 102 after effortlessly winning his only start at Benalla, Australia when known as Tex Mex and trained by Jamie Edwards.
Size expects the Toronado gelding to maintain his excellent consistency after a commanding last-start win on January 7 over Sunday's course and distance.
“He made the adaption to 1600 (metres) more or less straight away, he seemed to travel not too bad. He was a little bit strong, I guess, but still managed it in a slow-run race and he sprinted well off a slow speed, that's about all we expected from him,” Size said.
“I don't think he's taken harm from the race. He seems to have coped with that pretty well. His trial was normal and he looks like he's going to run a race again.”
Last season's Hong Kong Champion Griffin Howdeepisyourlove, rated 98, is yet to win in three starts at Sha Tin after spending the bulk of his formative career at Happy Valley, but Size hopes the Deep Field gelding can contend strongly.
“He's a different style of horse at Sha Tin, but I think he handles it quite well – the few times we've run him here, he's been fine. He would probably appreciate a slower track, and it's coming that way now the way the winter grass is growing,” Size said.
“He seems in good order and he's certainly going to run well. He looks like he can run a mile and this is first attempt, so he's going to be fitter in the future but he'd still run well, I'd say.”
Size will saddle 10 runners at the weekend as the 12-time Hong Kong champion bids to add to his current tally of 25 winners for the season. Prominent among the stable entry is Young Champion, who makes his first Hong Kong appearance in the Class 3 Peach Blossom Handicap (1200m) from barrier one under McDonald.
Formerly known as Sharlouk when trained in Ireland by Johnny Murtagh, the Zoustar gelding has not raced since finishing second to Cosmic Vega in the Listed Owenstown Stud Stakes (1400m) at Naas on 21 May, 2023.
“He seems to be enjoying it, he hasn't given us reason to be concerned about him. He's healthy and well, he's sound, he's got a good temperament. In his barrier trials, he seems to make the adaption of Hong Kong style of trialling rather quickly for a northern hemisphere horse, so I'm happy to take him to the races,” Size said. “I think he's going to acquit himself very well.”
“We're under no illusions that there is some smart opposition in the race, particularly the John Size horse so we've got our task in front of us, but he (Chancheng Glory) maps well in the race,” the South African said.
“He's very consistent and he raises the bar just enough each time to put himself right there at the finish. I expect him to deliver the goods once again and whether that's being into the minor money or we can be better than that, we'll be very happy.
“He's done well at home and he's done us proud, so hopefully he can do it again.”