Trainer Richard Gibson admits that Stewards’ Cup winner Giant Treasure may not always have his head in the right place to show off his best but says owner Pan Sutong has pulled the right rein inviting champion jockey Christophe Soumillon to retake the mount on Sunday.
Gibson was nonplussed by the notion that his talented grey might be the forgotten horse amongst Hong Kong’s premier milers but said he is particularly happy with how Giant Treasure is training ahead of the Group Two BOCHK Wealth Management Jockey Club Mile.
While the other milers have mostly come through a more traditional path via the Celebration Cup or Sha Tin Trophy on the way to Sunday’s international day dress rehearsal, and beyond, Giant Treasure took a different path.
Gibson elected to “run him shorter” in the Premier Bowl over 1,200m, where he found the specialist sprinters a touch nippy but did keep on strongly to the line in a sound effort despite his finishing position of 10th.
“I don’t know if he’s a forgotten horse, I guess that’s up to what the media want to write, but I was very satisfied with his run first time out and now he comes into a race where the conditions are more suitable and I’d expect him to improve over the mile,” he said. “Bringing Christophe isn’t really a surprise move – Mr Pan likes Christophe to ride the horse as often as possible and we’re fortunate he’s available on Sunday. And his record shows he goes very well for Christophe.”
Soumillon won a Chairman’s Sprint Prize for Pan on Gold-Fun and was aboard when Giant Treasure took last season’s Stewards’ Cup over Sunday’s course.
That victory brings the five-year-old into Sunday’s set weights with allowances race as one of only two runners with an open Group One win in the past year, and it’s easy to forget his form also includes a second to Japanese star Maurice in the 2015 Hong Kong Mile.
“I’m delighted with how Giant Treasure is training, he’s going as well as he has ever gone and I think we’ve got his mind right,” Gibson explained. “Maybe he doesn’t tick all the boxes every time he goes to the races but, when he does tick his boxes, we know he’s a top horse and one of the few in the world that could finish within a head of Maurice over a mile. He is in a more favourable race on Sunday and when I look at the opposition, we are very familiar with most of them. The only X-Factor horse is Rapper Dragon, but we know the others very well.”