John Size has cemented his position as Hong Kong’s best trainer, taking out a record-equalling 11th championship at Sha Tin on Sunday.
The Australian trained two winners on the day which was enough to wrap-up the title, fending off his compatriot John Moore to finish with 78 winners.
Ironically, Size now joins Moore’s father – George – at the top of the tree when it comes to training premierships in Hong Kong.
While Size’s final margin of three may look comfortable, it was anything but when Moore whittled the lead down to one after the first race when he combined with Zac Purton to take out the Class Five Medic Kingdom Handicap (1,800m) in convincing fashion.
The stage was then set for a ding-dong battle between the pair, but Size’s class shone through, saluting with both short-priced favourite Monkey Jewellery and Aerohappiness.
Fittingly, Aerohappiness ($3.8) ran down the Moore-trained Hello Beauty ($2.1) to seal the championship in the Class Three Entrapment Handicap (1,200m).
“When Aerohappiness won, it felt very good,” a relieved Size said. “I knew that was a big help, I knew [Moore] had to pull out a little bit more than what was required and that made it difficult for him.
“It’s a big relief, [Aerohappiness] saved his best for today which was good.”
Size had long expected the fight to go down until the last day, and he was proved correct.
With the 64-year-old seemingly under siege weeks out from the end of the season, he continued to find a way to produce winners.
Size also yielded 80 seconds in the term, 25 more than the next best.
“It was going to come down to the last day, he saw that also and that’s what it did,” he said.
“It is a big relief when you do win, I know that. It’s difficult, it’s not that easy so you just have to put your head down and keep going, you try to do your best for every individual in your stable and you might come up with a championship.
“You can’t put a price on morale, when you’re winning it helps everybody, it lifts the whole stable.
“They know, they have been winning for many years so they know what’s involved if they just keep going it will work out well.”
Despite throwing the kitchen sink at the title fight, Moore fell just short.
With the 69-year-old being forced into retirement at the end of next season, he said he would come back with new horses in an attempt to go out a winner after more than doubling his 33-win total from a disappointing 2017-18 season.
“We increased the strike rate in the last two months to give John a run for his money, it was great from a racegoers point of view that we went virtually to the wire,” he said.
“Wednesday night unfortunately we just had the one, then today, even though it looked good from the start then John got the two wins. 75 wins is my record, so from that point of view it has been a fabulous season, a big difference to last season.
“The number of winners and the fact we gave John a good run was great for the stable and theatre for the public.
“We will come back next season with some big guns, we are looking forward to it.”