Wellington showed a blistering turn of foot in wet conditions to claim his second Group One victory in the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup (1,400m) at Sha Tin on Sunday.
Richard Gibson’s talented five-year-old had not had the best of luck this term and was lucky to avoid a nasty fall in the Hong Kong Sprint a couple of starts ago, but bounced back to form with a vengeance under Alexis Badel.
“I’m obviously pleased for the horse, we just had an irritating start to the season for him,” Gibson said. “We were lucky to have a horse after the Hong Kong Sprint and all the misfortune that happened to those horses.
“We were a bit unlucky in running last time [in the Centenary Sprint Cup] so we thought it was the right time to hit 1,400m and I thought he did it with class and style today.”
The trainer was delighted with the way the race panned out and Badel carried out his pre-race instructions to the letter.
“We were actually disappointed with the one draw,” Gibson said. “I wanted an outside draw and to ride him quiet and finish on the outside. Alexis and I really wanted to finish wide today, which I think was the key to the good acceleration he showed.
Richard Gibson’s Wellington delivers to land Chairman’s Sprint Prize
“He showed a lot of class last year. I thought he was very unlucky not to get Champion Sprinter. He was the best guy in town – he beat everyone last year.
“This year, things haven’t quite gone right for him but we fancied our chances today and the horse delivered.”
Wellington has now won Group Ones over 1,200m and 1,400m, which opens up more options for Gibson, but the trainer already has the next target in mind.
“We’ve got the third leg of the Hong Kong sprint series [in the Chairman’s Sprint Prize on April 24] and we won’t be travelling with the horse, so we’ll concentrate on the third leg.”
Badel was delighted to pick up his second Group One victory in Hong Kong and was thrilled with his mount.
“That was a big win from the horse,” Badel said. “From that draw it was all about getting him to relax and he was absolutely relaxed.
“I was just looking for a way out and as soon as I could find some space and when I let him accelerate, he gave me his best turn of foot.
“He’s a brilliant horse and I’m very happy because we’ve been so unlucky in the first few runs this season. He’s certainly much more laid-back and more relaxed than he used to be so that helps to stay the distance.”
While everything went according to plan for Badel aboard Wellington, the same cannot be said of some of his rivals, with Waikuku noticeably unlucky.
Fresh from ending the winning streak of superstar Golden Sixty in the Stewards’ Cup last month, Waikuku was travelling well behind the speed when turning into the straight under Zac Purton but was hemmed in by Sky Field and left with no room to make a challenge as Wellington launched his run down the outside.
Sky Field was ridden much closer to the pace than usual in only his third start over 1,400m and was pulling hard early on. His jockey Blake Shinn was keen to keep Waikuku blocked in but his mount failed to display his customary turn of foot in the straight and faded to finish fourth.
Ka Ying Star hit the line strongly for second, while Waikuku was third.