Richard Gibson could not help but be disappointed by Wellington’s last-start fifth but believes his boom youngster is better for the experience ahead of Sunday’s Chairman’s Sprint Prize.
The four-year-old was all the rage heading into the Group Two Sprint Cup earlier this month, but could only manage fifth after covering ground in the run thanks to barrier 12.
The Englishman was frank in his assessment of his speedster last time out but believes the horse can still prove himself at the top level.
“You can’t hide your disappointment, you have got to take those days on the chin,” he said.
“We can spin it any way we like but I came out of the race thinking everyone learned a bit more about the horse, the horse learned a bit more and so did the trainer and jockey.
“These horses have got to prove themselves on the day. He has got a better draw on Sunday so optimism in the camp is a bit higher than the previous start.
“It is a quick turnaround – there are only 20 days – and he has already done plenty this year.”
While he was beaten by 178-1 chance Amazing Star last time out, Japanese raider Danon Smash now enters the fray, something Gibson believes is good for the sport in Hong Kong.
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“We respect everyone at Group One level,” he said. “It is terrific Danon Smash has come here, he has proven before that he can do it in Hong Kong so he will be a mighty adversary to beat.”
The handler takes a two-pronged attack into the race with stable stalwart Rattan lining up for what he says could be one of his last races at the top level.
The seven-year-old flashed late to run third in December’s Hong Kong Sprint but has not been sighted since with Gibson putting his absence down to a training mishap.
“It is interesting, we have two runners and they couldn’t be more different,” Gibson said.
“We have one young horse who is just starting out on his Group One career and then there is Rattan where this might be one of his last days in these big events so we will enjoy it while we can.
“We had a very rare training injury with this horse a couple of months ago and he has done very well to get back into shape to run in the race.”
Meanwhile, Ricky Yiu Poon-fai says he has kept his 46-start veteran Jolly Banner fresh ahead of the feature, where he will look to back up his second placing behind Danon Smash in the Hong Kong Sprint.
The nine-year-old has been drinking from the fountain of youth of late and the veteran handler believes he has one more big effort left in him after spending a significant amount of time in Conghua.
“He is doing well, he is in Conghua, China for the first time ever,” he said. “He loves it there, he has put on some weight and looking at his track work, he is a different horse since going there.
“We still expect him to run well, we are not too worried about the draw. The horses on the inside, the quicker they go, the better so we can find room through the inside and finish off the race.”