By Graham Cunningham
Almost 50 years have passed since Michael Jackson left The Jackson 5 to conquer the music world alone.
Mr Stunning is still in the early days of his solo career after leaving the John Size 6, but Karis Teetan feels the most highly-rated member of Frankie Lor’s increasingly influential band can hit the high notes in Sunday’s BOCHK Wealth Management Jockey Club Sprint (1200m).
Teetan partnered Mr Stunning to the first two wins of his career with Size in February 2016 and then looked on admiringly as he became front and centre of a peerless speed pack that also featured Group 1 winners Ivictory and D B Pin and rampant improvers such as Hot King Prawn, Beat The Clock and Premiere.
Nash Rawiller was at the controls when the Exceed And Excel gelding landed the Jockey Club Sprint and the LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) last year, but Teetan made an agreement to be reunited with Mr Stunning once he moved to Lor in the summer and is thrilled to be back aboard.
“I didn’t know Joao (Moreira) was going to leave Hong Kong when I stuck my hand up to ride Mr Stunning but the owners thought about it and I’m delighted to make a nice connection with him again,” he said.
“Not many horses do what he did at the Valley in his early days and I knew he was good even back then. He’s gone on to do great things in the last couple of years and everything is so natural about him.”
Mr Stunning finished second on his three starts after that famous Hong Kong Sprint win, going down narrowly to D B Pin and Beat The Clock in the Centenary Sprint Cup (1200m) and the Sprint Cup (1200m) before being beaten just half a length by Ivictory on his final start of last season in April’s Chairman’s Sprint Prize (1200m).
The switch to Lor followed in June – but not before the then-rookie handler called his old boss Size to discuss the matter – and a solid third after a six-month break when conceding 11lb and 5lb to Hot King Prawn and Fifty Fifty in the Premier Bowl filled Teetan with confidence for bigger tests to come.
“Mr Stunning moved up like he was going to give the winner some cheek that day. I think his big weight and the long break just told in the end but he’s 6lb better with the winner now and also has extra fitness on his side.”
That fitness was further honed in a talent-packed trial over 1050m of the all-weather track last Friday which saw Mr Stunning forge clear of D B Pin, Ivictory and Premiere to clock a final time of 1m 0.45 secs with striking middle and final 400m splits of 22.2secs and the same.
“Frankie needed the horse to have a good blow as he tends to go so easily all the time.” He added. “He felt great in the Premier Bowl but he definitely needed the race and a good trial like last week was just what he needed.”
Lor in order as his big day beckons
Teetan isn’t in the slightest bit surprised that Lor has made such a major impact in his first two seasons with a training licence and points to his time as assistant to Size and John Moore as evidence.
“Frankie has learned from the greatest,” he added. “He’s got so much experience with big stables and he’s using that and working with his jockeys to get plenty of good winners.”
Lor heads into what could prove the most significant day of his career so far with Glorious Forever a live chance in Sunday’s BOCHK Jockey Club Cup (2000m), a race in which he also saddles another recent recruit in Ruthven.
Last year’s Queensland Derby winner failed to live up to Derby hopes for Moore but impressed in crossing the line first in a useful trial last week and could be on the improve according to his new handler.
“He has had some problems with his hind legs and I had to go very carefully with him but the trial was good,” said Lor. “Moving up to 2000m will be better for him on Sunday and 2400m will suit him better later on.”
Lor could be building towards the LONGINES Hong Kong Vase (2400m) with Ruthven, while Teetan feels Mr Stunning has got to be there with a strong chance as he bids to emulate the great Japanese raider Lord Kanaloa by winning back-to-back Hong Kong Sprints on 9th December.
Nearer to hand, Hot King Prawn and the rest of what is now the John Size 5 lie in wait for Sunday’s showdown. But Teetan feels Mr Stunning is ready for the next step in his solo career. And, to paraphrase the late MJ, the Jockey Club Sprint has all the makings of a Thriller.