Learning curve for Gibson pair
Freshman trainer Richard Gibson has made a fabulous fist of rehabilitating lesser lights, but tomorrow takes him into a different arena as he turns towards feature racing and two four-year-olds he has imported for their classic season.
Beauty Lead (Centenary Vase) and Helene Fun Star (Crocus Handicap) have made one appearance locally when not a great deal was expected, but with a run under the belt they should present a better guide to where they are going. Beauty Lead, a Group Three winner and Group Two second in France at three, got a pass mark when seventh to Business As Usual over 1,600 metres first time out and Gibson admits he is on a learning curve going into the Group Three Centenary Vase at Sha Tin.
'On his best French form, he'd be the one to beat with the light weight. While he has improved for the first run, he is going to come on for this one, too,' said Gibson (pictured).
With so many four-year-olds looking to get racing into their legs in preparation for the Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong Derby next month, Gibson is strangely enough the only trainer to have taken this particular path to the classic. Jacobee was an unlucky third in the Centenary Vase last year before finishing a solid Derby fourth and Plastic Polymer (2007) was 11th in the Derby after winning the Vase.
However, the two four-year-olds to win the Vase when it was run at 2,000m - Vengeance Of Rain (2005) and Industrial Pioneer (2001) - also went on to win the Derby.
'I know it's a tough call taking on the older horses, but getting 20 pounds off Pure Champion is a lot of weight so I thought we could take our chance,' Gibson said.
'That's why I chose to run in this at handicaps rather than the Classic Cup next week. Beauty Lead is a big-barrelled horse and carries plenty of condition and my gut feeling is he isn't ready to take on the best at level weights just yet.
'I look at him and think he needs the race, but I do remember thinking that when I saw him before a race in France and he came out and won it. We are still getting to know each other, but if Beauty Lead could win this I'd be very encouraged about the Derby.'
Gibson is expecting a bold showing from Helene Fun Star, a winner of three 1,400m races from six runs in the UK, coming off his debut eighth in the Chinese New Year Cup: 'Of the two horses, he's the one who I feel has improved significantly,' he said.