The margin for error in world-class sprint races is tiny. Miss a beat at the stalls and it can be tough to recover. Catch a slight bump in running and it could be game over.
Such fine margins make it hard for any horse to dominate Hong Kong's unforgiving speed division, but Karis Teetan feels Mr Stunning is “right at his peak” as he bids to follow up a thrilling G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) win in Sunday's (20 January) G1 Centenary Sprint Cup (1200m).
The Exceed And Excel gelding looked in pole position to become champion sprinter for trainer John Size this time last year, lining up in the inaugural G1 running of this race as 1.8 favourite after his first Hong Kong Sprint success.
Then those fine margins intervened. D B Pin swooped late to beat Mr Stunning a neck in this race; stablemate Beat The Clock did likewise in the G2 Sprint Cup; and Ivictory grabbed the champion sprinter crown by holding him by half a length in the G1 Chairman's Sprint Prize.
But much has changed since then. Out went former rider Nash Rawiller due to suspension; in came a new trainer in Size's former assistant Frankie Lor; back came an old ally in Karis Teetan; and the Mauritian rider has no hesitation in saying that Mr Stunning’s second Hong Kong Sprint win last month has helped him to a new level.
“Mr Stunning has to be the most important horse in my career so far as he gave me my biggest win but he’s always been special, even going back to the days when I won on him at Happy Valley on his first two starts in 2016,” said Teetan.
“That Hong Kong Sprint win last month was a different feeling. You can never know what it’s like to win a championship race until you actually get in that position, but days like that give you extra belief and also a hunger to do it all again.”
Doing it all again this weekend involves taking on some very familiar rivals – headed by D B Pin and Beat The Clock.
“Tactics could be a big thing for all of us but Mr Stunning is very easy to ride,” he said. “He can produce his kick from wherever you want so I just have to ride him with confidence.
“Frankie had him in great condition last month and the way he has gone in his last two trials he still seems in top shape. It’s not easy to go from Group 1 to Group 1, as we saw in this race last year, but I have confidence in this horse and I think he can do it.”