Season 2019-20 is likely to be champion sprinter Mr Stunning’s last in Hong Kong, with his trainer Frankie Lor Fu-chuen conceding age is beginning to catch up with the veteran galloper.
With life in a paddock looming for the dual Group One winner, Lor is looking to send him out in style, beginning with Sunday’s Class One Chek Lap Kok Handicap (1,200m) at Sha Tin.
“I think after this season, he should be retired, not only because of his age but he also has some problems,” Lor said.
“I think it would be better to just let him retire and enjoy his life, he deserves it.”
Such has been Mr Stunning’s consistency at the top level, his last 18 starts have come at Group level. He has not raced in anything below that for three years.
Sunday’s race was originally designed as a lead-in race for horses bound for Dubai later this month, with many dubbing it the “Aethero Sprint”.
But Aethero’s withdrawal last week means stablemate Thanks Forever is the only Dubai-eligible runner in the field, leaving the race wide open.
Karis Teetan will reunite with Mr Stunning after the horse delivered him his first international Group One in 2018.
Even with Mr Stunning on his last legs, Lor believes he still have the ability to make his presence felt, even if he has to carry 132 pounds.
“He is still racing OK, he ran fourth in December in the Group One,” he said.
As a two-time winner of the Hong Kong Sprint, Mr Stunning has amassed more than HK$50 million in prize money during a glittering career.
Mr Stunning makes up half of Lor’s team in the contest with Big Party also returning after opting to steer clear of recent Group One races despite boasting a rating of 107.
The speedy grey has had his fair share of issues but his talent is unquestionable.
An impressive winner of the Group Three Bauhinia Sprint Trophy (1,000m) on December 29, Big Party has not been sighted at the races since.
The four-year-old has enjoyed a meteoric rise, winning five of his nine career starts comfortably.
With two smart barrier trials under his belt since December’s victory, Lor believes he is ready to fire, on one condition.
“Big Party, he trialled OK but you can see he still jumped a bit slow, so I need to remind the jockey that he likes to do that,” Lor laughed.
Jumping a clear last in his barrier trial, Big Party motored home over the top of his rivals, leaving Lor to believe he is a better chaser than he is leader.
“He is a very smart horse, but when he goes in front, he cannot finish,” he said. “He needs to follow some horses and then peel out, he is too smart.”
Big Party will carry just 115 pounds under Grant van Niekerk, who was in the saddle for his latest victory.
Lor faces a three-pronged attack from his former boss John Size, who will saddle up top weight Hot King Prawn, Full Of Beauty and Country Star.
Despite racing well in Group contests this season, Hot King Prawn has not won a race since November 2018.
Ricky Yiu Poon-fai’s enigmatic Voyage Warrior also races, with the speed machine unproven over the 1,200m trip.
The four-year-old has been devastating over the straight 1,000m trip but has finished no better than sixth when racing around a bend.