Gold-Fun’s lead-up form has been faultless and the Richard Gibson-trained veteran’s versatility makes him a good bet to go one better on his recent international day results and win the Longines Hong Kong Sprint.
Of course, this is the first time Gold-Fun has turned up in the Sprint after two consecutive seconds in the Mile – the first, a heartbreaker to Glorious Days in 2013 and then when runner-up to the otherworldly Able Friend last year.
Gibson’s switch to sprinting for Gold-Fun, a former miler of the year, has been well-documented with the Irish-bred having won twice and placed second twice in four starts at 1,200m since trying the trip for the first time in February’s Group One Chairman’s Sprint Prize .
Joint surgery in the off-season hasn’t seemed to slow the six-year-old at all, with Gibson helping the gelding along by plotting a slow and steady path to the big one – today’s HK$18.5 million feature is only the horse’s third run this preparation.
After again falling to old foe Able Friend in the Group Two Premier Bowl, Gold-Fun notched an impressive victory in the local sprint trial, the Jockey Club Sprint three weeks ago – albeit in a race where a crazy tempo helped his cause.
Still, after the win, Gibson claimed his sprinter “left plenty in the locker” with a view to peaking for his ultimate target.
Tactics from Christophe Soumillon will again be key for Gold-Fun from barrier six – a good draw, for sure, but it should be noted that both of the horse’s 1,200m wins have come from gates one and two. Still, Gold-Fun has won from a box seat sit in the past, while he was further back when the leaders tore along in the Jockey Club Sprint, so Soumillon has options but he will still need to be thinking on the fly.
The lack of leaders makes the speed map somewhat of a minefield. The obvious pacesetter is American speedster Mongolian Saturday, but sometimes an obvious speed map can result in the opposite of what is expected and, in this type of situation, a mad rush to take up positions handy to the speed.
Barrier 14 is a major blow to the chances of Peniaphobia, from where Joao Moreira will be forced to pick his poison – go forward and risk being burnt on a fast pace again, or sit too far back and be held hostage to tempo. There is a strong school of thought that Peniaphobia is better ridden from a sit, but this doesn’t look on paper to be a race where closers will be advantaged.
The draw was kind to Not Listenin’tome (Hugh Bowman), who gets a golden opportunity from barrier two to show his ultimate quality after a couple of runs when disadvantaged by either draw or fast pace.
Of the overseas contenders, the Japanese hold a strong hand with three runners, but for every Japanese form student extolling the claims of Sprinters Stakes winner Straight Girl, third in this race last year, there is another just as adamant Mikki Isle is the one to beat or making the case for Sakura Gospel.
To say that there is no Lord Kanaloa is stating the obvious – he was a once-in-a-generation talent – but sometimes the type of parity seen in the bunched finish at Nakayama can be indicative of subpar form.