Prodigious speedster Wellington delivered on his enormous potential to announce himself as Hong Kong’s great sprint hope in the Group One Chairman’s Sprint Prize at Sha Tin on Sunday.
The four-year-old brushed aside short-priced Japanese raider Danon Smash to make good on his disappointing performance in the Group Two Sprint Cup earlier this month.
The win ended a five-year Group One drought for trainer Richard Gibson, who hopes it can propel his stable to bigger and better things.
Having nurtured Wellington from the beginning of his racing career, Gibson takes an enormous amount of pride out of the result.
“It is great satisfaction to have sourced and delivered a good horse,” said Gibson, who also won the race in 2015 with Gold-Fun. “He came from Australia, sourced from the trials and we thought he’d be the right type to come here.
“I always thought we would get to the winning enclosure, the road was a bit rocky and life is never easy but I am delighted to get there in the end.”
The Englishman admitted his disappointment after his last-start defeat but never lost faith in his stable star.
Starting on a rating of 52 in January last year, Wellington now has seven wins from 10 starts to his name and a rating likely to be pushing 120.
Gibson erred on the side of caution last season, backing off him after his fourth start, but has now been handsomely rewarded.
“I tried to be as honest as I could [after his last-start defeat], it is difficult to hide your disappointment on those days but we had faith in our team and faith in our horse and he delivered today,” he said.
“As a trainer, the older you get you learn to take the rough with the smooth. We are very confident in what we do here in Hong Kong when we have the horses and we hope to build up our stable strength.”
The son of All Too Hard will now target the Hong Kong Sprint in December with Gibson indicating he would now head for a “nice long rest”.
With Hong Kong-trained four-year-olds rounding out the top three placings, Sunday’s HK$18 million feature represented a possible changing of the guard in the sprinting ranks.
The Tony Cruz-trained Computer Patch led for most the race to finish second while the Caspar Fownes-trained Sky Field rattled home late for third.
Frenchman Alexis Badel also collected his first Group One in Hong Kong, with the popular jockey adding to a bumper season which has seen him win the Classic Cup and Group Three Bauhinia Sprint Trophy.
“It is a fantastic moment because I have known this horse since last season, he gave me a lot of winners,” he said.
“I am so happy and I feel blessed to be back on him because it is never easy to jump on a good horse here and win a big race like that – it is fantastic.
“I am glad for Richard Gibson, he has been great to me and has given me a lot of support since my first season here. It is great to deliver on a big day like this.”