Prawn Baba dances to the rhythm for Doleuze
Trainer John Size's honest gelding races away with the day's Class 2 feature race
It's all about rhythm with Prawn Baba.
The gelding's honest drum-beat gallop saw him run away with the Class 2 Kowloon Cricket Club Centenary Cup Handicap over 2,200m at Sha Tin on Sunday.
"He only has one rhythm but he never stopped, he's very brave," said jockey Olivier Doleuze, after the John Size-trained five-year-old had won the feature at odds of 9-1.
Doleuze, controlling the Australian-bred's cadence, shifted from a stalking rail berth into clear running on the home turn - a move that claimed the lead with about 400m remaining in the gruelling race.
The Duke Of Marmalade gelding maintained a relentless stride to hold the staying-on Exultant by a length and a quarter, with Doyeni a neck back in third.
"The pace was nice and I was able to race behind the leader," said Doleuze. "He's a really one-paced horse, so John asked me to make sure he was not too far behind. He just has his one rhythm.
"When I saw the leader was gone on the turn, I put him ready to go and gradually I just extended - he never stopped."
Prawn Baba is Hong Kong racing's equivalent of a journeyman boxer - brave, durable and a winner when things fall his way - and Sunday's victory took his record to three from 23.
The 95-rated runner's biggest claim to fame will likely always be his role in Joao Moreira's "Magic Eight" record of most wins in a Hong Kong race-day back in March last year - Prawn Baba was number eight.
"I don't really know him, it's the first time I've ridden him in a race but I trialled him the other day and he gave me a very good feeling," said Doleuze.
The 45-year-old Frenchman took his season's tally to 12 winners. That total includes a Group 1 win earlier this year aboard the Size-trained D B Pin.
"It's always nice to have the chance to ride for John. He has a lot of good horses. It's not easy here, it's always hard in Hong Kong,"said the veteran.
"I've won a Group 1 this year. Last season, it was hard for me to get a ride in Class 3 and I've just won a Class 2. It's not a question of how many wins I make, it's a question of whether or not I still enjoy it.
"When I wake up in the morning on race day I feel very happy to do my work, so I see no reason why I will stop. We'll see, but so far, I will try to ride another year and see if I go on after that."
Exultant, third to Ping Hai Star in the BMW Hong Kong Derby last start and the 2.5 favourite this time, ran on gradually from back in the field of 10.
"He's just lacking a bit of a gear, he's got a bit dour the longer he's got into his prep. He needed every bit of the straight to get wound up, so 2,400m is not going to be an issue," said jockey Brett Prebble.
The four-year-old shouldered topweight on Sunday and Prebble felt that the Tony Cruz-trained gelding might benefit back at level-weights the next round, should he take up his entry in the Group 1 Audemars Piguet QEII Cup over 2,000m on April 29.
"Dropping back to 126 pounds (57.2kg) is going to give him a big chance, too," he said.
The afternoon's other Class 2, the Victoria Harbour Handicap over 1,200m, saw Pick Number One register a dirt track five-timer under Joao Moreira.
Danny Shum's charge has met with only one reversal this term and that was a second-placing on the turf at his second start, back in November.
"He's only a three-year-old but he takes his racing very well. I'd like to race him more but his options on the dirt track are limited now," said Shum, after the 2.4 favourite had held Calculation by a neck. - HKJC