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John Size hopes Red Desert can prevail despite stamina doubts as trainers championship heats up

May 9, 2021, 6:09:35 AM

John Size, who is locked in a thrilling struggle for trainers' championship honours, admits that numbers are stacked against Red Desert in the Class 2 Carnation Handicap (dirt, 1650m) at Sha Tin on Saturday (8 May), but believes the gelding will reveal precious reservoirs of endurance to overcome an existing trend.

“He seems to like the 1200 meters on the dirt; that's his race,” Size said. “He's still failed a little at the 1650m, but it's the right surface for him, and one day he could get away with one.”

“He can race well, as he always does. It's just the last 200 meters of the race, but he doesn't seem to have the stamina to finish.”

In support of Size's claim, Red Desert has won three races over 1200m on dirt but is winless in four attempts at 1650m at the same track.

Red Desert (128lb), to be ridden by Antoine Hamelin, is drawn in barrier six in a field that includes Tony Millard's Elusive State (133lb) and Frankie Lor's duo Kings Shield (133lb) and Glorious Artist (133lb) (130lb).

Size leads Caspar Fownes (58), Frankie Lor (53), Danny Shum (53) and Francis Lui (52) in a crowded trainers' table with 59 victories going into the 70th of 88 meetings for the 2020/21 season.

Size, who has 11 titles to his name in a historic period spanning 2001/02 to 2018/19, is generally modest about adding to his collection, even as four quality rivals gain traction heading into the season finale (Wednesday, 14 July).

“I've never been optimistic in my ability to win a title. There are five trainers within striking distance, and I believe everyone can win at this point,” Size said, expressing hope that Gallant Express can bounce back in the Class 3 Celosia Handicap (1400m) after finishing second last time out.

The I Am Invincible gelding was sent off as a 1.3 favourite at Sha Tin last start, but he raced greenly after coming back further than anticipated, finishing fourth to E Star.

“On the day of cycling, you had to be in a decent place to win a race. Horses who were three-deep or had to do some job at some point did not win,” Size said.

“I believe he has a little reason there, and perhaps if he gets a decent starting spot from gate four on Saturday, he can run better.”

“There seems to be a little of pace in this one. There are a handful of horses who frequently take the lead, and they will most likely give him every opportunity to win.

“He seems to be in excellent health. His fitness and well-being have already been excellent. So I believe that with any running, he might do well.

“I'm not sure where he'll go, but he's obviously got some quality, and I hope he'll improve next season, as all three-year-olds do. But he has a strong disposition, he is sound, he seems to be in good shape, and he has adapted to Hong Kong since he earned his first start – I believe he has a future.”

Moreira, who leads Zac Purton in the jockeys' championship 118-102, claims Killer Bee will benefit from experience in the Class 3 Balsamine Handicap (1200m) after finishing second to Regency Bo Bo last time out at Sha Tin.

“I thought it was a really good run; he was only unfortunate not to win that day. He was grabbed right on the line and put on a decent performance; sadly, he didn't win, but there's still tomorrow,” the Brazilian said.

“He was a little eager, which was a worry, but I'm sure Caspar (Fownes) has done some good work around it to ensure he doesn't do the same at the next start. He seems to be a very high quality horse; he's a tall, solid guy, and I'd be surprised if he doesn't run a good race.

“I think we're doing good where he's at right now in terms of fitness, and I'm very pleased with him.”

“I believe he has natural pace and can finish in the top four horses; the only thing I would like to have with him is cover so that I can conserve his energy for the finish. If the conditions are favorable, I believe he will be able to relax and finish the race strongly.

“He has pedigree, stature, and temperament, so he's the kind of horse that gets us really excited.”

Derek Leung believes Pegasus Glory will reclaim the winner's circle in the second segment of the Class 4 Daphne Handicap (1200m) after finishing second on the dirt at Sha Tin on April 17.

“He did really well the last time. We drew outside (barrier 10) last time and used too much in the running, but he still finished well, particularly with the top weight,” Leung explained.

“This time, we'll try to be in a decent place and not use too many too early, and I'm confident he'll finish strong.”

Leung is hoping Me Tsui's Wandjina gelding will react positively to blinkers after being drawn to leap from gate three on Saturday and back on turf.

“Previously, when I worked him, he was not centered enough when he reached the front. The blinkers seem to be working for him. It's very encouraging. “The horse is still truthful.”

Saturday's 10-race card at Sha Tin begins at 1pm with the first section of the Class 4 Daphne Handicap (1200m).