Blinkers seem to have clicked with Consort after the expensive import again looked a different horse in a 1,600m turf trial at Sha Tin yesterday ahead of the BMW Hong Kong Derby.
Gibson may not be able to pull off what would be a miracle second Derby win for owner Pan Sutong with Consort but he can already take some credit for at least getting the troublesome colt’s mind back on racing.
Consort never looked comfortable in two starts for John Moore and wasn’t any better for Gibson last time out in the Classic Cup.
The ineffective efforts by the Group One-placed grey prompted a move to blinkers, which seemed to help him focus in a 1,000m trial last week and an even more improved showing over further yesterday.
With Sutong’s regular go-to rider Christophe Soumillon unable to partner Consort in the Derby due to suspension, Chad Schofield could be in line for the mount after riding the colt in both trials.
Consort stepped out of the gates in a positive manner and trailed along in third behind a decent speed set by Cloud Nine and Island Flyer, before finishing off with a spring in his step.
“It was certainly encouraging,” Schofield said after the hit-out. “The blinkers have helped, he was doing pretty much everything wrong before, and he feels a lot more switched on and genuine with them on.”
Of course Consort will need to make up what would seem an enormous amount of ground on the leading Derby hopes – one of whom was looming ominously behind him in the trial, Blizzard.
Going into both the Classic Mile and then the 1,800m Classic Cup, many expressed distance queries about Blizzard (Gerald Mosse), but the Ricky Yiu Poon-fai-trained gelding has come through with flying colours on both occasions.
Blizzard was third after chasing a fast speed in the Classic Mile before racing wide and dead-heating for third with Eastern Express in a blanket finish last time out over 1,800m.
The son of Starcraft settled beautifully in yesterday’s trial and got to the line well without any pressure from Mosse.
Later, another Derby fancy, Werther – with Derek Leung Ka-chun warming the saddle for Hugh Bowman – was given a quiet trial over 1,200m on the dirt as Lucky Bubbles (Brett Prebble) burst away to win the heat.
Lucky Bubbles was unlucky last start over 1,200m when second to Amazing Kids but could be one to watch in the late season feature sprints, especially getting weight off the older horses.
As an aside, and judging by his trial efforts on the dirt, Lucky Bubbles may even one day join the growing number of stars Hong Kong has produced in recent years on the surface if he gets the chance.