Jockey Silvestre de Sousa pushed himself to the limit to ride out Sunday’s meeting at Sha Tin despite the pain but his win on talented sprinter Wishful Thinker made it all worth it.
The star Brazilian was in serious doubt for the meeting after suffering a lower back injury at Happy Valley on Wednesday night and was in noticeable pain after races, but was able to lift the Richard Gibson-trained galloper to victory against just three rivals in the Class One Flamingo Flower Handicap (1,200m) to do the horse’s Dubai aspirations no harm.
De Sousa underwent intense physiotherapy in hospital and was offered a painkilling needle on Sunday morning to get him through, but elected to ride through the pain after booking a full card of rides.
“I had a good book of rides so I pushed myself to the limit to ride today,” he said. “I had a lot of physio, I damaged the tissue near the disc, vertebrae five, but they did such a good job, I was having physio twice a day and good treatment.
“I got one winner so it has paid off but I thought it could be a few more but the main thing is I have got through in one piece.
“I did not want a needle today, they offered me one and I said no, I will just use the painkillers.”
Gibson was full of praise for De Sousa, who managed to take his win total to 41 with the victory.
Wishful Thinker and Silvestre de Sousa record a fluent success in a slowly-run Class 1. Trainer Richard Gibson is still open minded about a crack at Blue Point in the Al Quoz Sprint on 30 March but feels his winner "showed a lot of class and is still improving." #HKracing pic.twitter.com/VyFmp9FuMG— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) March 10, 2019
“It was cool and collected from Silvestre, you can see he is not 100 per cent, he got off the horse pretty gingerly but he kept his cool and the horse showed a lot of class,” he said.
“This horse is still improving, which is very exciting considering the rating he is at. I don’t think we have got to the bottom of him yet so it is a good position to be in.”
Going into Sunday’s race with a rating of 112, Wishful Thinker will find himself on the cusp of gaining an entry into the stacked Group One Al Quoz Sprint (1,200m) in Dubai on March 30, but Gibson said they were happy to make other plans if they did not get the invitation.
“We will have to wait and see, first of all we have to get the invitation,” he said. “I spoke to the owner yesterday and we have two very nice problems, the nice problem of choosing to go to Dubai or we have got the nice problem of choosing whether to target the top sprint races coming up [in Hong Kong].
“I am just pleased that I have got an improving sprinter and we haven’t seen the bottom of him yet.”
While Gibson remains hopeful of an invitation to Dubai, the bubble surrounding Elusive State burst on the Sha Tin all-weather track.
Trainer Tony Millard reported that his improved galloper failed to handle the waterlogged all-weather surface, only managing to run on for fourth place, all but ensuring he will not get a run on World Cup night on March 30.
“He just did not handle the track, it was very hard to make ground when it is favouring the rail like it was today,” he said.
“You could see, we don’t normally go forward like we did today but we knew we were up against it.”
Tony Cruz's AW specialist King Genki rallies tenaciously under Matthew Poon to foil the freewheeling Raging Blitzkrieg in the Class 2 Lusitano Challenge Cup. Tony Millard feels that 2.2 favourite Elusive State was unsuited by the wet track in fourth. #HKracing pic.twitter.com/E0dCvN1cNp— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) March 10, 2019
De Sousa agreed, saying the horse was not able to make ground as well as he had managed in his previous starts this season.
“I got him into a really good position, but he did not handle the track like he had in the past, coming around the turn it was just like the wheels were spinning and not going anywhere,” he said.
De Sousa said he hoped to be fit for Wednesday night’s Happy Valley meeting, if his recovery continued as expected.
“I had plenty of rest as well, I was sleeping and then had some painkillers to get ready for today,” he said. “I will try my best to ride, I’ll get more physio because I am already booked for rides.”