Cementing his reputation as Hong Kong’s premier sprinter, Wellington has emphatically showcased Group 1 Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) claims in December with a dazzling performance to win the Group 2 Premier Bowl Handicap (1200m) at Sha Tin on Sunday (October 23).
Resuming with 135lb under Alexis Badel, Hong Kong’s Champion Sprinter laid waste to 11-lighter weighted rivals in a searing 1m 07.78s – a time which compares favourably to Sacred Kingdom’s course record of 1m 07.50s, set in 2007 – in a display which rightly drew superlatives from Badel and trainer Richard Gibson.
Tracking the favourite Lucky Sweynesse (124lb) before emerging from the eventual runners-up’s slipstream to prevail by a length, Wellington notched his 11th win from 17 starts as 2021 Hong Kong Sprint victor Sky Field (131lb) rocketed from the tail of the field to finish third in a race-best final 800m of 43.71s.
Hong Kong’s key contender for the HKD$24 million Group 1 Hong Kong Sprint (1200m), Wellington gave Frenchman Badel the final and most treasured leg of a treble.
“Perfect – The question mark with older horses is always to feel good, to be healthy. That’s the main key,” Badel said after slotting his eighth win on Wellington.
“He’s got the quality and that’s proven. He’s outstanding. The way he began from the gates today was amazing. He’s so professional, so mature in his racing manners, so he’s a dream of a horse to ride.
“He’s now more mature. He’s got the ability that he’s always had but he’s more tractable now, he’s versatile – he does whatever you want. He’s just outstanding and he’s got that turn of foot that makes such a difference.”
For Gibson, Wellington’s dominant display was a bonus – and vindication of unwavering belief in the All Too Hard gelding.
“Obviously, we were the best horse in the race but could he carry the weight? To be really honest, I didn’t know but it had to be a good one to beat him today,” the Englishman said.
“Our big objective is December. We wanted to run today. It’s an added bonus that we won and we’re looking forward to the rest (of the season).
“He’s showed his class here now for two seasons and despite the big weight today, it’s a good sign for the rest of the season. I think the moment, I saw him jump I thought he was going to be hard to beat to be completely honest. He came out of the gates hungry and from that moment on, it was always a comfortable watch. I thought he was going to make it.
“I think the only thing that surprised me is the price (+800). You’ve got the best horse in Hong Kong for two years over this trip and despite the weight, that price is extraordinary.”
Gibson plans to next start Wellington in the Group 2 BOCHK Private Banking Jockey Club Sprint (1200m) at Sha Tin on November 20.
In tremendous form, Badel combined with John Size-trained Accelerando to clinch the Class 4 Tailorbird Handicap (1600m) before a ground-saving ride atop Danny Shum-trained Rise Brethren proved pivotal as the Lope de Vega gelding denied Running Glory by a short head to land the Class 2 Hwamei Handicap (1800m) and earn a PP Bonus of HKD$1 million for Rise Brethren’s owners.
Angus Chung notched his first winner for trainer and master Tony Cruz with a clever ride aboard Circuit Stellar in the Class 3 Shrike Handicap (1600m).
“Mr Cruz has been supporting me a lot. I was a little bit upset with myself not to get a winner before for him – I’ve had three seconds before today – so it was great to get a winner for him today,” Chung said.
Keith Yeung celebrated his first win of the season when Untold Riches surged to victory in the Class 4 Sunbird Handicap (1200m) for Jimmy Ting, who has endured a challenging run with the Swiss Ace gelding.
“This horse’s health gives me headaches,” Ting said of the six-year-old’s extensive veterinary record. “It’s sometimes his left leg, sometimes his right leg, sometimes it’s his lungs.
“When everything is okay with him, he can win – but he still gives me headaches.”
Francis Lui teamed with Zac Purton to win the Class 3 Lark Handicap (1000m) with Hong Kong debutante Superb Boy, a Nicconi gelding who won twice in Australia for Jean Dubois when known as Jerry.
Vincent Ho continued an excellent season, guiding Frankie Lor’s One Voice to victory in the Class 4 Swallow Handicap (1400m) to post his 13th win for 2022/23.
Dennis Yip’s El Jefe prevailed for the first time since February, 2020 with a resounding victory under Antoine Hamelin in the Class 5 Woodpecker Handicap (1400m) while Benno Yung’s King Land upstaged his opposition to snare the Class 3 Magpie Handicap under Jerry Chau.
A Listed Stakes winner in Sydney when known as Midland for Kris Lees before export to Hong Kong, King Land charged late to prevail at +7400 before Lui sealed a brace as The Irishman surged strongly under Ruan Maia to land the Class 2 Cuckoo Handicap (1400m).