Richard Gibson will have his first Group One runner at Royal Ascot next month with sprinter Gold-Fun to tackle the HK$6.7 million Diamond Jubilee Stakes on the final day of the iconic meeting.
An electronics firm owned by Gold-Fun’s owner, Pan Sutong, is a sponsor at Royal Ascot but Gibson indicated that the primary motivation for Monday night’s decision to take the trip was the challenge and the likelihood of a good performance.
The seven-year-old gelding has only once missed the first four in any race in more than two years, collecting three wins, seven seconds, a third and two fourths from his last 14 starts.
“Mr Pan sees this as an exciting challenge, the sponsorship is a happy coincidence,” Gibson said.
“I think every year we see that our sprinters in Hong Kong are very competitive anywhere they go and Gold-Fun over an uphill straight 1,200m looks well suited to me. We’ve had Cape Of Good Hope and Little Bridge win there and, with respect to them, Gold-Fun’s record is better than theirs. He is such a professional, so consistent, he has never let us down yet and I would be surprised if he started now.”
Gibson said he had saddled up runners at Royal Ascot in minor events but not in the Group Ones, and it will be a new experience too for Gold-Fun who has never been tried over a straight course in Hong Kong.
“The 1,000m is just too short. In truth, his best distance is probably 1,400m but the Ascot 1,200m is a tough, uphill course which will suit a horse like him,” said Gibson. “I feel sure the travel will be a piece of cake for him because he just handles everything and always has.
“The horse will leave at the last minute, the week before, it will just be for the one race then back home to rest up and prepare for the international meeting. And I’m delighted that Christophe Soumillon has agreed to ride the horse – one of the world’s great jockeys and he has already won a Group One on Gold-Fun and knows him well.”
Gold-Fun was to be one of two Hong Kong runners at England’s most prestigious meeting, but John Moore-trained Not Listenin’tome was withdrawn earlier this week and will instead run in the Group Three Sha Tin Vase (1,200m) on May 22.
On the other side of the coin, Tony Cruz said that Helene Super Star’s entry for the Group One Takarazuka Kinen over 2,200m in Japan on June 26 was simply to keep options open.
Helene Super Star has not been at the top of his game heading towards a May 22 defence of the Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup he won in 2015 but the trainer has him entered for Japan in case he finds form.
“If he runs well in the Champions & Chater, there would be nothing left here so we might look at Japan but he would have to perform first,” Cruz said.