Joe Pride has always been compared to his former boss but after hitting the heights of his Everest success on Saturday, the trainer paid tribute to the ‘push’ from John Size that made it all possible.
There was something very John Size-like about the way Joe Pride reacted to winning The Everest with Think About It.
Pride had just won the world’s richest race on turf with a five-year-old gelding that cost $70,000 as a yearling and that has now won 11 races from 12 starts. He also produced the third-placegetter Private Eye, another bargain gelding, this one a six-year-old, for the same syndicators that cost $62,500 at the sales.
Standing calm in the centre of a tornado of overflowing emotions that swirled around him, Pride told the media scrum of the pressure he felt leading into the race and the plans he has for Think About It’s future.
The winning trainer said it all in the same measured tone adopted by his mentor Size, and soon after his phone buzzed with a congratulatory text from his old boss, the reigning 12-time champion in Hong Kong.
“He is always in the back of my mind, what he did, I am very grateful he set me up to start with,” Pride told Asian Racing Report after the last at Randwick.
Pride has long been compared to Size but as the Sydney Morning Herald race report headline stated after victory in the world’s richest turf race, “Finally out of the shadows, a master trainer has his moment in The Everest.”
Indeed, he will now be seen by the media and punting public in a different light, but as Pride reflected on the enormity of the moment – and Size’s influence – his thoughts went back to the start of his career at Randwick 23 years ago.
That start came suddenly when Size was recruited to Hong Kong for the 2001-02 season and before his assistant of four years thought he was ready to run a stable.
“It was a surprise that he went to Hong Kong, he hadn’t told anyone, and he could have just left and not worried about what he left behind but he was good enough to set me up,” Pride said. “Had he not done that, I might have been lost to the industry to be honest, because I didn’t feel ready to train.
“It is so hard to start, but he gave me horses and support. A lot of that support dropped away in the first 12 months and it was hard, because I don’t think I was ready.”
“But I am not sure that I would ever have made the decision to go it alone at all without that push from John. I know I had a lot of doubt in my mind, and I knew there were easier ways to make a living.
Even before Saturday’s pinnacle, Pride’s ability to get the most from inexpensive and older horses – another trait shared with Size – as well as his amiable, media-friendly nature, had long had him on the radar of the Hong Kong Jockey Club licencing committee.
Now that Pride has the hottest prospect in Australian racing, the 51-year-old isn’t going anywhere, and rich bonuses attached to the remaining spring sprints in Sydney mean that Think About It is unlikely to be leaving his home city anytime soon either.
“There are big bonuses on offer here for him here,” Pride said, referring to the Sportsbet Sprint Series, in which horses need to run in at least three of the six eligible races to qualify for a share of A$6million in bonuses. “Once we run in the Giga Kick Stakes at Rosehill in two weeks that only leaves one week to the Champions Sprint in Melbourne. And I have to look at autumn … and over more ground.”
It may surprise that the trainer is talking about mile and middle distance races with a five-year-old that hasn’t been stretched beyond the 1400m of his 2023 Stradbroke Handicap victory but Pride, again like Size, has taken a patient approach with a lightly raced charge by a sire-of-substance, So You Think.
“A mile is going to suit him: he is not a sprinter, but he is just really good at sprinting,” Pride said. “I think he will get further and everybody can see that. He could be back here next year but we can try him out in a George Ryder Stakes or a Doncaster, maybe even a Queen Elizabeth. If that doesn’t work out we can always come back here.”
The last line he leaves us with is spoken like a true Size protege: “We will let the horse tell us.”
Author: Michael Cox from the Asian Racing Report
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