Richard Gibson hopes the good record of Hong Kong horses in the Al Quoz Sprint holds his rising star Wishful Thinker in good stead for Saturday’s Group One at Meydan.
Starting when the Derek Cruz-trained Joy And Fun took out the race in 2010, Hong Kong-trained gallopers have finished in the top three on seven occasions – clearly the best of any of the Dubai features.
It’s that scorecard which gives Gibson confidence his speedster can measure up.
“We’re banking on the success of Hong Kong horses in these Dubai sprint races, historically they have performed very well,” Gibson said.
“Wishful Thinker has won four of his past five races, which is very hard for any horse to do in Hong Kong, and he was unlucky in the Group Three when he finished third. So he’s in good form and we’re hopeful.”
The five-year-old has established himself as one of the premier sprinters in Hong Kong recently with two Class One wins in the past six weeks and is rated a $13 chance in fixed-odds markets.
Gibson believes the straight 1,200m will suit Wishful Thinker down to the ground and he will be ridden by Alexis Badel, who knows the gelding well having won on him three times before.
Wishful Thinker heads a two-pronged attack for Gibson, who also saddles up Gold Mount in the Group Two Dubai Gold Cup (3,200m).
After riding the six-year-old in February’s Group One Hong Kong Gold Cup (2,000m), champion jockey Ryan Moore suggested he would be better suited over two miles.
Given the longest races in Hong Kong are 2,400m races and there are just three of them a season – two Group Ones and a Group Three – the only way that was possible was by heading overseas and Moore has stuck strong, retaining the ride.
“I think if he was trained in Europe he’d already be at this distance,” Gibson said. “I thought the horse trialled very well in Hong Kong before coming here. He trialled as well as I’ve ever seen him trial. We’re slightly rolling the dice but on this flat track, I think he can run very well.”
Gold Mount is a $19 chance in pre-race betting with Melbourne Cup winner Cross Counter the $2.60 favourite.
But while Gibson also faces the might of Godolphin in the Al Quoz – Blue Point is odds-on for that race – he is not worried about taking on the blue army on their home track.
“It’s like every horse race for us, we’ve got enough to concentrate on in getting our own horses right and executing our race plans,” he said. “I just try to focus on our work, which we can control, rather than someone else’s.”
This is the fourth time Gibson has campaigned horses at Meydan, having finished third (2008) and eighth (2009) in the Dubai Sheema Classic with Doctor Dino, as well as coming fifth in the Dubai World Cup with Akeed Mofeed.