O'Sullivan thanks Gibbs for good Fellowship
Paul O'Sullivan reflected on the horsemanship of one of the great men of the New Zealand racing industry, Jim Gibbs, while he soaked in the quality of the performance of odds-on favourite Fellowship in the final event yesterday.
With previous winning rider Olivier Doleuze unable to make the weight, outstanding South African horseman Felix Coetzee lent a hand and, as usual, made no mistake as Fellowship nailed Skyview Bar and Egyptian Ra close to home.
'Fellowship was bought for me by Jim Gibbs and, the way this horse has won today, I can't help thinking what an advantage it is to have someone like Jim in your corner helping you,' said O'Sullivan.
Gibbs, along with O'Sullivan's father Dave, have been two of the leading lights in the training ranks in New Zealand over the past 30 years or more. O'Sullivan Snr has retired, leaving the training to sons Paul and Lance, but Gibbs is still going strong at the major Waikato training centre of Matamata.
'Jim is one of those delightful people that you sit down to have one beer with and you stay for another 14,' O'Sullivan said. 'He's just so experienced, not just a horseman but a stockman, and the depth of his knowledge of horses is just incredible. I can listen to him for hours.'
Fellowship is now two from two in Hong Kong and on the evidence of yesterday's performance in the Victoria Harbour Handicap (1,400m), there is plenty more in store. 'The major issue about today, as far as I was concerned, is that he's probably looking for further than 1,400 metres,' said O'Sullivan. 'So for a horse to win like he did, running 1:21.1 but really wanting further, well you can't really ask for more.'
The irony of this race, handicapped on a rating band of 105-80, was that there were only two horses out of the handicap and they ran the quinella. Fellowship was two pounds out of the handicap but progressive four-year-old Skyview Bar was five out, yet finished second.
O'Sullivan warned he won't be punishing Fellowship in his first season. 'I don't want to be too tough on him in his first season here.'
Coetzee said he'd gained 'a great feel' from this son of prolific Waikato Stud sire O'Reilly. 'He came to them in the final 200 metres and was always going to win. But he just idled and didn't immediately put them away. I gave him one [with the whip] on the left hand side, and he wandered slightly, but when I switched to the right hand, he consented to go and won it in a stride.'