Alexis Badel is in the enviable position of being the incumbent rider of Hong Kong’s best sprinter and potentially the city’s most exciting up-and-coming speedster.
The Frenchman has won three Group Ones aboard Wellington, including two last season, but he hopes Cordyceps Six puts in a performance at Sha Tin on Saturday that at least makes him have to think about which galloper he would ride should they meet later this season.
Cordyceps Six, who – like Wellington – is trained by Richard Gibson, has won six of his 12 starts and rocketed up 47 points in the ratings last season in a campaign that culminated with victory in the Group Three Sha Tin Vase (1,200m).
Badel was in the saddle for the first time in that Group Three and teams up with the four-year-old again in Saturday’s Group Three National Day Cup (1,000m).
“It’s always difficult to anticipate that sort of decision, but it’s a good problem to have,” he said. “It’s always good to have that sort of headache. But honestly, at the moment, I can’t think about it. Let’s take one step at a time, and let’s see if we can perform well in this one first.”
Only seven will go to post for the second Group contest of the season, and Badel expects to be able to sit fairly close to a speed likely to be set by Me Tsui Yu-sak’s outsider Harmony And Rich.
“I don’t think the pace will be overly quick because it’s a small field and a few horses in the race need to relax a little bit to be able to finish off,” he said.
“I think there’s only one or two potential leaders, so they might not be burning themselves as a bigger field could.”
Cordyceps Six will have to work his way into the contest from gate one, but while outside gates are traditionally preferable in Sha Tin straight contests, Badel believes his charge will enjoy the space.
“I’m happy with where I’m drawn because it gives me the opportunity to get a clear run if the pace is not fast enough for me,” Badel said of his plans for Cordyceps Six, who has posted four wins over five furlongs at Sha Tin.
The 32-year-old has nine rides on what could be a busy weekend for the Badel household, with the jockey’s wife, Eva, due to give birth to their second child any minute.
After a slow start to the 2022-23 campaign, Badel has hit his straps in the past two meetings with three winners.
He saluted aboard John Size-trained debutant Sweet Encounter at Sha Tin last Sunday and combines with the master trainer four times on Saturday.
Bourbonaire’s only Hong Kong victory was a six-length romp on yielding ground and the five-year-old could get a surface to suit in the Class Two Beijing Handicap (1,600m).
“He seems like he’s got natural ability on softer ground, and it’s nice to see a bit of rain for him. Hopefully, he can take advantage of it,” Badel said, adding he expects improvement from Power Koepp in the Class Three Shanghai Handicap (1,200m) after his first-up sixth on opening day.
“His last run was OK. He carried a lot of weight from his wide gate, but he gave me a nice feel.”