Richard Gibson is not expecting to win the Hong Kong Derby (2000m) for a second time at Sha Tin this Sunday (17 March) but is confident that Gold Chest will represent him with credit and make up into a high-class performer next season.
Gibson is one of just four trainers in Sunday’s HK$18 million contest to have won the race before – the others are John Size, John Moore and Tony Cruz – having landed the 2013 renewal with Akeed Mofeed in just his second season in Hong Kong.
Gold Chest will carry the same familiar Pan Sutong colours as Akeed Mofeed did when sent off as 1.8 favourite under Douglas Whyte six years ago and has the services of globetrotting rider Oisin Murphy, who partnered nine Group 1 winners during a breakthrough 2018 campaign.
However, expectations are nothing like so high this time with Gibson admitting to concerns that his latest Derby hope “is very lightly-raced and hasn’t got enough racing experience under his belt.”
Formerly known as Naval Intelligence when trained in England by Jane Chapple-Hyam, Gold Chest won both his first two starts at Newmarket last year and earned rave reviews from his then-handler by forging clear of smart rivals in the Listed Sir Henry Cecil Stakes over 1600m in July.
Four subsequent runs in Hong Kong see him line up rated 87 – with just two of 13 Derby rivals below him – and Gibson feels his War Front gelding is still playing catchup in relation to several more seasoned contenders.
“Gold Chest had two races on a straight track in the space of 15 days in England and when you do that and hit an 88 rating coming into Hong Kong it’s tough. You need mental as well as physical strength in these races and I just feel we’re a bit light in that category.
“A midfield draw is what we wanted, so stall seven is fine, but my gut feeling is that this might just come a bit too quick for him. What I do know is that he’s a very talented horse with class and ability. Win, lose or draw he won’t be running anywhere for a long time after Sunday but he could be a top performer next year.”
Gibson is well aware of how significant Akeed Mofeed’s thrilling Derby success was in helping him get established in Hong Kong and takes huge pleasure from the impact his former star is now making in his new career in Australia.
“The difference between Akeed and other Derby winners in the history of the race is that the horse has gone on to be a very successful sire, which gives you a lot of professional satisfaction,” he said.
“He’s moved to a bigger stud (Swettenham Stud in Victoria) and is going to be covering 180 mares, so that’s the proof of not only what a good racehorse he was but also what a great constitution he had to perform as a colt here.”