Top jockey Alexis Badel is confident he can end a lean run aboard Wellington in the Group One Centenary Sprint Cup (1,200m) at Sha Tin on Sunday.
Badel has ridden only three winners in Hong Kong since November 24 but he believes he’s identified the reasons behind that lull as he looks ahead to yet another big ride this weekend.
“The suspensions cost me a lot in terms of momentum, it’s always tricky to be suspended and especially twice in a row,” said Badel, who sits sixth in the jockeys’ premiership with 22 winners.
“It never helps because you lose good rides and you need to build up again. I would say that’s the main reason [for the slow patch], as well as some bad draws, some circumstances. I’m ready to bounce back.”
The French rider’s big-race mount Wellington is also looking to return to form after being badly hampered in last month’s Hong Kong Sprint, where a horror fall saw Amazing Star and Naboo Attack euthanised.
Richard Gibson’s five-year-old is proven at the highest level, winning the Group One Chairman’s Sprint Prize last year, and Badel is hopeful that Wellington has suffered no lasting effects from that incident and is ready to take his place as Hong Kong’s top sprinter.
“He feels good in the morning and his recent trial was good,” Badel said.
“We didn’t go fast – we were conservative because of the way [the fall] happened but he seems all right. He moved well and he seems happy and fresh, so I can only be positive.
“He shouldn’t have any excuses now, he’s got a good draw and he’s had two runs already so it should be the right time for him to get back to his best level.”
The Centenary Sprint Cup is shaping up to be a fascinating clash with Wellington coming up against gun youngster Master Eight, who will be attempting to maintain his unbeaten record as he steps up to Group One level for the first time.
The Frankie Lor Fu-chuen runner will be attempting to provide Matthew Chadwick, who replaces regular partner Joao Moreira, with his first Group One winner in almost a decade.
Wellington is not the only Group One ride that Badel has on the Sha Tin card but it may be his only chance to get into the winner’s enclosure, with his other top-level mount Healthy Happy taking on the mighty Golden Sixty in the Stewards’ Cup (1,600m).
Healthy Happy steps up in distance after surprising Badel when he saluted in the Group Three Chinese Club Challenge Cup (1,400m) last time.
“It was a good surprise. I knew he was fit enough to go to the races but I didn’t expect him to be competitive in that way – he was very positive during the race, showed good speed and had to sprint early and stayed on well. He showed what he really can do when he’s in good form,” the jockey said.
Depending on his Stewards’ Cup performance, the plan could well be to revert to 1,400m and the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup looms as a possible next assignment.
“I think the mile is OK for him but maybe 1,400m might be his best distance after all,” Badel said.