Mr Stunning has a score to settle in Sunday’s (19 January) Group 1 Centenary Sprint Cup (1200m) at Sha Tin and trainer Frankie Lor believes his top-class charge is in the right shape to prevail.
The seven-year-old was denied a hat-trick of wins in the Group 1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) when his old foe Beat The Clock sped to victory last month. Mr Stunning is out to avenge not only that defeat but also last year’s Centenary Sprint Cup reversal when his John Size-trained rival was a neck too good.
Mr Stunning has in fact had to settle for second-place in each of the last two renewals of this weekend’s sprint feature, having dead-heated with Beat The Clock when both runners finished a neck behind another returning rival, D B Pin.
But Lor believes it could be a case of third time lucky for his Exceed And Excel gelding.
“We’ll see him close to his best in this race – I think he can win,” he said.
Mr Stunning’s three-quarter-length defeat when fourth last time out in the Hong Kong Sprint held plenty of merit, being only his second run back off an injury lay-off. The admirable bay suffered a fracture to his shoulder last spring and only returned in mid-November, finishing eighth in the Group 2 Jockey Club Sprint (1200m) before improving into his failed December defence.
“I think in this race we will see him show more,” Lor said. “Everything was smooth with his recovery – when he had the hairline fracture in the shoulder the vet told me I had to give him time so I did not push him too hard, I’ve taken things step-by-step with him and he improved for each of his two runs.
“He had those two runs and after that he has improved so I’m happy with his form.”
Mr Stunning has had two trials (1050m, dirt) since his last race: a sweet first-past-the-post cruise on 27 December, and latterly last Friday when he headed Beauty Applause with Sunday’s opponents Hot King Prawn, Full Of Beauty and D B Pin behind. Those warm-ups “pleased” Lor.
Hugh Bowman has flown in to ride Mr Stunning in each of his races so far this term and will do the same again this weekend.
“Hugh said after his last race that he was much better than his first run, he was happy with him and said he’d be happy to ride him this time,” Lor said.
With Bowman based in Australia, Keith Yeung held the reins in Mr Stunning’s latest two trials – he feels the seven-time course and distance winner is in good physical health but does have one reservation.
“He’s a good horse, obviously, and he always shows his best in the morning but my only thought with him is that time might be catching up with him. He’s fine, his action was good and he still tries but he’s an older athlete now,” Yeung said.
The Centenary Sprint Cup field of eight also features Wishful Thinker, Thanks Forever and Premiere.
Sunday’s action at Sha Tin also includes the Group 1 Stewards’ Cup (1600m) in which Beauty Generation will attempt to bounce back from defeat to land a second win in the mile showpiece. The Horse of the Year will face Waikuku and Furore among his six rivals.