Francis Lui Kin-wai has put blinkers on six-year-old Lucky Bubbles after 20 starts in an effort to spark the speedster in Sunday’s Group One Centenary Sprint Cup at Sha Tin but the trainer thinks a change of luck might be more important than the gear change.
Lucky Bubbles was a Group One winner in the Chairman’s Sprint Prize late last season but Mr Stunning has taken the mantle as Hong Kong’s top sprinter with three big wins to start the term.
On each occasion, in two Group Two lead-ups and most recently in last month’s Group One Hong Kong Sprint, Lucky Bubbles was inconvenienced to some degree.
Lui said the effect of a gear change at such an advanced stage of the gelding’s career might be negligible but an opportunity to get a fair crack at Mr Stunning could make all the difference.
“He is six now, what can you do to change him? It’s not like you can put a new engine in him,” Lui said. “I just hope he gets a clear run and everybody can see those two horses go against each other in a clean race, head-to-head.”
When second to Mr Stunning in the Group Two Premier Bowl and then when inconvenienced badly in the Group Two Jockey Club Sprint, a case could be made that Lucky Bubbles would have finished closer with a clear run in transit.
Excuses weren’t as forthcoming from Lui and jockey Hugh Bowman after Lucky Bubbles fourth on international day when, despite being held up for a run at the top of the straight, the gutsy chestnut failed to threaten.
“I’m not sure about the international day run, he drew barrier one and was stuck behind horses so Hugh (Bowman) didn’t get out when he wanted, but maybe he could have finished better,” Lui said.
Lucky Bubbles hasn’t raced since then but two gallops in blinkers and an impressive trial in the new race day gear on January 16 have Lui thinking his horse is at his best.
“He galloped again on the all-weather track on Thursday and it was very good,” Lui said. “He is in good condition, his body weight is right around 1,080 pounds, just like normal, and the trial two weeks ago was good.”
Hugh Bowman, who was aboard for Lucky Bubbles sole Group One win and last start, will again be called in to ride and this time gets barrier five.
“And Mr Stunning has barrier four,” Lui said. “They will probably be near each other in the run. I think that is what people want to see. Maybe we can’t beat him, but at least let’s get a chance to see them test each other.”