Paul O’Sullivan is hopeful the progressive Sacred Ibis will return next season as a better horse after the four-year-old scored an impressive victory in the Class Three California Memory Handicap (1,400m).
After Class Four wins at start two and three, Sacred Ibis took time to find his groove in Class Three but O’Sullivan says an 11-week break proved just the tonic.
“The two previous starts he just started to tail out and I said to the guys ‘this could become a nasty habit’, so we tipped him out for a few weeks and brought him back,” O’Sullivan said.
“He just got to the stage where he needed a break, he hadn’t had a lot of racing but sometimes they don’t have a lot of racing yet they still need a break.
“He came back and he was very competitive in his trial and brought that into race day.”
O’Sullivan is confident of finding something else this season for Sacred Ibis, but hopes it will be next term when the gelding really comes on.
“I think he will probably have another run before the end of the year, it depends on what the handicapper does,” he said.
“We will stick to the 1,400m, he’ll come through the year with about seven runs but he could come back next year as a nice miler. I think in time he will be competitive in Class Two.”
After settling third from last, Sacred Ibis seemed to benefit from a pile-up instigated by Derek Leung Ka-chun on leader Mythical Emperor, with Zac Purton making ground on the rail before weaving through the field to hit the lead just over 100m from home.
It was Purton’s fifth winner for the day and he admitted he was fortunate not to get caught in the trouble.
“I was lucky at the 1,000m, there was a scrimmage up in front of me and I was able to get inside it and it didn’t affect me,” he said.
“I was able to get a lovely run through the field, he’d had a nice little freshen up, he had no weight on his back and he was able to just cruise the last furlong.”
Leung was banned for two meetings and hit with a HK$60,000 fine for careless riding.
Another impressive winner on the day was Hong Kong Derby runner Rattan for Richard Gibson, who exploded at the 200m underneath Neil Callan to win the last race by four lengths.
“We freshened this horse up really well after the Derby, his training programme was pretty unique, it was one month hand walked,” Gibson said.
“We just got him really fresh and well again. I thought he trialled fantastically well 10 days ago and we knew we had a great chance … the manner in which he won today was impressive and there is a lot to look forward to.
“The only reason we were running at the end of the year was to get the HK$750,000 [high achievement bonus], the objective was to get the bonus, now he is on holiday and we will wait for next year.”