Top jockey Brett Prebble has swapped nine for bubbles and Sunday won’t tell him anything he doesn’t know about his new sprint beau, only how long he has to wait before popping the champagne next.
Prebble has regularly ridden three champion sprinters in his Hong Kong career alone – Sacred Kingdom, Absolute Champion and his five-year partnership with the great Lucky Nine that finished with the gelding’s retirement in February.
But the Australian rider has never held back from describing Francis Lui Kin-wai-trained Lucky Bubbles as his next big thing and, in the HK$10 million Chairman’s Sprint Prize, the four-year-old takes the leap into Group One company with two other up-and-comers, John Size-trained Amazing Kids and Thewizardofoz.
“I haven’t ridden Thewizardofoz and he looks a 1,400m horse to me. He’s fresh, so 1,200m might be OK, but he’s never been in this type of pressure,” Prebble said yesterday.
“I’ve won on Amazing Kids and it’s well established what a big opinion I’ve got of him, but he has to take a step up from when Lucky Bubbles beat him the other day.
“As far as I’m concerned, Lucky Bubbles is the next superstar here, but he is going to be more seasoned next year and that’s what we find out on Sunday – he’s good enough, it’s just whether this is a little soon.”
Like everyone else, Prebble is in awe of the talent assembled for the Chairman’s Sprint and knows the opinions – his and everyone else’s – are going to get a proper workout.
“Going to be nowhere to hide. This is as good a sprint race as I think I’ve seen and if Lucky Bubbles can perform in this company now, look out next season,” said Prebble, who had even been unsure whether the four-year-old should take his place so soon after his last brilliant win.
“I was worried that he’d had such a hard run, running brilliant times and he’s only lightly built, so it could have taken too much out of him.
“But he’s bounced back, put his weight on again and he’s really a happy, healthy horse, his action is great.
“If there’s one thing I’d change, it might be having gate one, which doesn’t give you many options where to go, but it’s still a lot better than 14.”