Racing

Mr Stunning now eyes the Chairman's Sprint Prize

Trainer John Size's 4YO comes from last to lift the Group 2 Sprint Cup

Long touted as a potential stakes horse, the John Size-trained MR STUNNING made a statement at his first Group-race attempt, stamping himself as a major contender for next month's Group 1 Chairman's Sprint Prize over 1,200m with a strong victory in the Group 2 Sprint Cup over the same trip at Sha Tin on Sunday.

The four-year-old, who was sent out second favourite at 3.4 on the back of a Class 1 victory over the straight 1,000m in March, took his record to seven wins from 10 starts in Hong Kong with his victory in the HK$4 million (S$723,000) feature.

The bay came from near last to record a half-length victory over Group 1 winner Peniaphobia under regular rider Joao Moreira, who notched a four-timer, including a Group 2 double as he also took the Chairman's Trophy on RAPPER DRAGON.

"There was always a natural query about whether he could compete with the top horses," Size said after recording his first success in the Group 2 contest.

"That's the case for any horse stepping out in that class for the first time, but he couldn't have done any better there. He did have all favours in the run, the way the race was run every horse had their chance but definitely suited him.

"Still, he went on and won the race and that's all you can ask for and there was a big margin behind the first two as well."

Mr Stunning was eased from the gates and settled at the rear early, although never farther than five lengths from the even tempo set by the Tony Cruz-trained Peniaphobia.

Moreira kept the Exceed And Excel gelding to the rail, saving ground until the 300m mark, before he sprinted powerfully when given his head between runners at the 350m, recording a slick last 400m sectional of 21.90sec as he clocked 1min 8.46sec for the 1,200m.

"We thought he was going to be handy, but under the circumstances that I was faced with, I just decided to place him where he was comfortable," said Moreira.

"I think that was quite lucky in the end because so much was going on right in front of me and he was out of it, so it gave him his best chance of winning. Remember what he did at Happy Valley in his first couple of starts though, he came from a long, long way back to just go whoosh. I think that versatility might be his biggest strength.

"I'm very proud of this horse, I always thought he had the ability to get to Group level but I didn't think it would happen so quickly. And I think that he's only going to get better next season too, so what he's doing now is a bonus."

Mr Stunning's next target will now be the Group 1 Chairman's Sprint Prize on May 7 over the same course and distance, a race where he is likely to meet many of Sunday's beaten brigade, as well as select runners from abroad. - HKJC

Racing