Richard Gibson knows “the stats are against him” and Alexis Badel thinks “he’ll have to be a great Wellington to win” as Hong Kong’s highest-rated sprinter prepares to make his reappearance in Sunday’s Group Two Premier Bowl (1,200m).
Three-time Group One winner Wellington, who strung together three victories – two of them at the top level – before going for his well-earned break, must set a new Premier Bowl weight-carrying record to extend his current winning sequence to four.
Mr Stunning, trained by John Size and ridden by Nash Rawiller, lugged 133 pounds to take out the 2017 Premier Bowl two years after Able Friend, from the John Moore yard with Karis Teetan in the saddle, shouldered the same impost to success in 2015.
Wellington, whose 123 rating ranks him behind only Golden Sixty (131) and California Spangle (127) in Hong Kong, must carry more weight than each of his 11 Premier Bowl rivals, including lugging 11 pounds more than four-year-old Lucky Sweynesse.
Gibson, who in concert with Wellington’s other connections is plotting a conservative path to the Group One Hong Kong Sprint (1,200m) on December 11, is itching to see his stable star compete again.
“We decided with his owners we wanted to run him twice before the international races. We had some irritating problems with him this time last year. If anything, he’s ahead of schedule this year as opposed to the previous year,” Gibson said.
“We’re looking forward to seeing him race. He hasn’t raced for such a long time. It’s a long rest from April to October. We’ve been really pleased with his preparation. The stats are against him with all that weight to carry, but he needs to race.
“We’ve got a very good horse against us in Lucky Sweynesse, who’s favourably weighted. I’ve been a big fan of Lucky Sweynesse almost since his first race. He’ll been the one we have to chase home.”
Badel, for whom choosing Wellington over Cordyceps Six was easy – “very simple decision, you can’t get off a horse who’s a multiple Group One winner, it just wouldn’t make any sense” – concurs with Gibson about the six-year-old’s physical well-being and the tough task he faces on Sunday.
“It seems like he came back fit enough from his latest trial. He moved very well, he repeated what he can do and he gave me a nice feel. That was a good effort, and he’s fresh and happy,” Badel said.
“I’m not going to underestimate any of the other runners in Sunday’s race. It’s not an easy race. There are many other horses who’ve a good chance as well. It’s very open. Carrying top weight first up, I think he’ll have to be a great Wellington to win the race. It’s just the circumstances.”
Unlike Wellington, Cordyceps Six has raced already this season, flopping as the $1.9 favourite in the Group Three National Day Cup (1,000m) on October 1.
“Speaking diplomatically, the horse didn’t go as we’d planned. But now he’s got a run under his belt, and we’ve always thought he’s a better horse over 1,200m, so we’re so looking forward to what he can do against the very best Hong Kong sprinters,” said Gibson, who explained the rationale behind his engagement of Lyle Hewitson for Cordyceps Six.
“I chose Lyle because his style reminds me a lot of Blake Shinn. Blake rode this horse beautifully.”