It must be a great feeling heading into your next big race knowing you’ve previously beaten most of your competition.
That’s the enviable position trainer Richard Gibson finds himself in as he unleashes a sprinter at the peak of his powers in the Group Two Sprint Cup (1,200m) at Sha Tin on Sunday.
Wellington is now a dual Group One winner, supplementing last season’s victory in the Chairman’s Sprint Prize with a win in the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup last start, and he has beaten most of his weekend rivals at one time or another.
Gibson is happy with his stable star, who is the highest-rated runner in the race this weekend, and feels his horse is clearly the one to beat.
“He’s had a very relaxed preparation, he’s maintained his condition and I’m looking forward to the race,” Gibson said.
“He’s a horse who has got a fantastic turn of foot, he’s matured well now and at his best he takes a lot of beating. At his best he’s the horse they have all got to chase home. He’s very talented and already a multiple Group One winner.”
The only blip in Wellington’s copybook last season came when he finished a disappointing fifth behind Amazing Star from stall 12 in this race but Gibson has no fears that the same thing could happen this time around.
“This year it’s been a very different season for him,” Gibson said. “It’s been well documented that at the beginning of the season we had niggles and we were running out of momentum. Now we’ve got him in good shape and it’s been a very smooth, straightforward prep.”
Wellington storms to second Group One win in Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup
In pre-pandemic times, Wellington could well have been campaigned differently and been given the chance to showcase his talents on the international stage, with Gibson confident his five-year-old is more than capable of holding his own against some of the world’s top sprinters.
“In a normal year, we would have travelled,” Gibson said. “It’s just that in the Covid era when travel is fairly close to impossible, it’s not an option. We can’t even travel, so I don’t know how a horse could.”
Gibson came close to a huge success abroad when Gold-Fun was beaten just a neck behind Twilight Son in the Group One Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot in 2016 and he is confident that Hong Kong’s best can still mix it with the world’s leading thoroughbreds.
“Traditionally Hong Kong sprinters are feared around the world,” Gibson said. “We go back to Danny Shum [Chap-shing’s] Little Bridge, who won the King’s Stand at Royal Ascot, Gold-Fun was very unlucky in running and beaten in a photo finish and John Moore also had great success with sprinters. We have tough, good horses.”
With Covid restrictions hopefully set to be eased in the next few months, there is always a chance Wellington could travel next season but Gibson is experienced enough to know you can never think too far into the future.
“As we all know, another year in a racing career is long,” Gibson said. “I’m never one to think too far ahead, I’ll just try to enjoy the next race and enjoy this good horse because they are tough to find.”