Hall says Little Giant faces big test on path towards LONGINES HKIR

Trainer David Hall says he’s as keen as anyone else to see how his promising galloper Little Giant measures up when he steps to Class 1 company in Saturday’s The Panasonic Cup (1400m) at Sha Tin. 

“It’s a big test for him in a very strong race. It’s really the one suitable race available to him at this time and if he’s going to take the next step then he has to be able to do it here. I’m hoping he can do it but I think we’re all waiting to see what he can do, not just you,” Hall said. 

That next step may well be the LONGINES HKIR with the son of Swiss Ace holding nominations for the LONGINES Hong Kong Mile and the LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint to be run on 9 December. “We’ll consider those options later,” said Hall. “For now we’ll just worry about tomorrow (Saturday).”

Importantly, Hall reports that the six-year-old who was off the scene for ten months before his fresh win in October, is in good health. “He’s in good shape and his feet are really good which is the key,” he said.

Little Giant (126lb) has won three of his four starts in Hong Kong and won his only two starts in New Zealand in January 2016. Interestingly, on debut, he beat Humidor who has been placed behind Winx in the past two editions of the G1 Cox Plate. 

Thus his form-card is impressive but tomorrow he’s opposed to a raft of similarly promising horses and has to overcome a wide draw in stall 10. “It is a tough draw but hopefully Zac (Purton) can deal with that. He also goes in with just the one run under his belt so there’s a couple of factors to overcome,” Hall said. 

Purton says there was no specific choice to be made between Little Giant and Simply Brilliant (126lb) even though he has partnered Frankie Lor’s Frankel gelding to three wins and a desperately unlucky third over course and distance last month. “I was locked in to Little Giant a while ago so I really didn’t have to make a call on this race.

Little Giant, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club

“Both horses have been good to me and I’d say there’s not much between them. Once these sort of horses get to this level it’s hard to separate them race wise so you usually have to hope you make the right call and then get the right run in the race. 

“Simply Brilliant was unlucky last time and he’s drawn to get a nice run tomorrow. Little Giant was very good first-up and he’s come through that race well. It played out well for him then when he drew well and it’s a different ball game now as he’s drawn wider in a stronger race but he’s an exciting horse and 1400 (metres) shouldn’t be a problem. He gives me the impression he’d run a mile (1600 metres),” Purton said. 

Purton then channelled the essential football coach or manager when he said it was a case of ‘one race at a time’ for Little Giant. “He’s got to take a couple more steps to get to international level,” he said.

Champion trainer John Size has three Panasonic Cup runners with last start winner Calculation (Sam Clipperton,126lb) joined by What Else But You (Matthew Chadwick, 127lb) and Conte, who run for the first time this season. 

Calculation has been a successful shuttler from Conghua and Clipperton expects him to run well despite the strength of the race. “I won on him last time and he’s going well. You could say he’s better on the all-weather but he’s also run some really good races on the turf.

“It’s a strong race and Little Giant looks to be a horse who is very much on the up but take him out and it’s very open and competitive and my horse has drawn stall 2 to get the right run,” Clipperton said. 

Size says Calculation is one horse who has responded extremely well to being trained from Conghua. “He went there in July and has been there ever since. He’s a little bit of a nervous type so he’s better suited to track work there where it’s quieter. He’s done very well at Conghua and gone to the highest mark he’s ever been on,” he said.

Conte hasn’t raced since June when he suffered the first defeat of his six start career but has trialled well in preparation for his return. 

“I’ve ridden him in his three recent trials and he’s going very nicely,” said Clipperton who added he was happy to stay aboard last start winner Calculation. Umberto Rispoli rides Conte, who has drawn widest of all in stall 14.