Hot King Prawn’s grey coat is another shade closer to white, one more year is on his withers, but trainer John Size is not yet letting go his belief that yesteryear’s precocious star-in-waiting might yet snare that Gr1 win that has so far eluded.
The Denman six-year-old is now into his fifth season and on Sunday he will attempt to win the Gr2 Jockey Club Sprint for a second time before striding on to the Gr1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint on 13 December, when he will attempt to break his top-flight maiden at the sixth attempt.
“It might be a bit optimistic to think he can come back as a six-year-old and go one better but he might be able to: all his training and his signs at home for us at the stable are quite good,” Size said Friday morning.
Hot King Prawn rolled into the LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint two years ago as the 2.1 favourite with a record of nine wins from 10 starts, and off a no-messing front-running success in the Jockey Club Sprint which suggested the dappled galloper was the future of the Hong Kong sprint division.
But on the big day, he faded to ninth. Two months later, in February 2019, Hot King Prawn underwent surgery for colic and wasn’t back in action until last season’s Jockey Club Sprint in which he again showed his quality with an admirable first-up second behind the dashing ‘rising star’ of the moment, Aethero. Size’s charge followed that with a tantalising neck second to stablemate Beat The Clock in the LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint itself.
“Last season he had a colic operation to come back from and I think he did a very good job to sort of run so well in the International race second-up after a long lay-off. This season I’m hoping he’s a little bit better,” Size said.
Just a smidgeon better would place Hot King Prawn at the head of a sprint pack lacking a star, with Beat The Clock and Mr Stunning now retired and the usual raft of exciting young guns still on the rise through the handicap grades. The Australian-bred won only one of eight starts last term but he was never worse than fourth and made the podium in three of the four Gr1 races he contested.
Since a pipe-opening fourth at his first start this term, under top-weight in the Gr2 Premier Bowl Handicap (1200m), Hot King Prawn has pleased his handler, notably his showings in a couple of barrier trials the most recent of which saw him cruise first past the post under big-race pilot Joao Moreira.
“He seems fine, he took the (first-up) run very well, he had a couple of easy trials after that so he seems in pretty good shape and I’m happy with him,” Size said. “He’s coping very well with his training and he might be limited as to what he can do in Group races but he’s certainly going to run well.”
Hot King Prawn is set to face a field of nine rivals at the weekend, including last season’s Gr1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize (1200m) runner-up Big Time Baby, as well as Big Party, Voyage Warrior, Premier Bowl winner Wishful Thinker, Rattan, Computer Patch, Fat Turtle, Amazing Star and Stronger.