Richard Gibson hopes he has solved the puzzle of Sudoko, the Group Three-placed son of Rubick he imported from Australia 10 months ago, ahead of the four-year-old galloper’s delayed Hong Kong debut as Dragon Admiral at Happy Valley on Wednesday night.
A subject of sensational spelling – the deliberate spelling of a word in a non-standard way for special effect – in Australia, the horse then called Sudoko won two of his first three races in tandem with Luke Currie before placing third in last year’s Group Three Red Anchor Stakes (1,200m) under rumoured Jockey Club recruitment target Hugh Bowman.
The form of the 2021 edition of the Moonee Valley race that sported the name of David Hayes’ late father, Colin, from 1990 to 2004, is working out well. Its winner, Generation, has posted another Group Three victory, bagged three more black-type placings and finished close-up fourths in two Group One sprints at Melbourne’s tight-turning track.
Now known as Dragon Admiral, the private purchase arrived in Hong Kong two months after his bronze medal result in a Group Three contest run in an excellent time given the rain-affected surface.
Tough win!— 7HorseRacing 🐎 (@7horseracing) October 23, 2021
Generation fends off Scissor Step in the Group 3 Red Anchor Stakes. pic.twitter.com/Zm7ZHSVAt9
But Dragon Admiral’s post-import health stopped him from joining the likes of Wellington and Cordyceps Six as an active participant in Gibson’s training programme, much to his new handler’s exasperation.
“Pretty much on the first day he arrived into the stable, he was sore all over his body. We never found any significant injury on the horse, but he was too uncomfortable to train,” Gibson said.
“Really frustratingly, he missed the whole season. He’s done a lot of rehab in Conghua. Fortunately, the patience of the owner has paid off and the horse has been training well since the start of this term.
“I think he’s a stronger horse than last year, and his trials have been encouraging. Going into a first race after a long lay-off is always a bit of a question mark, but everyone at the stable is just delighted to have him in great health again.”
Gibson has booked Alexis Badel to ride Dragon Admiral in Wednesday’s Class Three Kam Shan Handicap (1,000m) and the Hong Kong debutant is one of five Gibson-trained gallopers listed on the card.
Six-time winner Right Honourable is set to contest the Class Four Shek Pik Handicap (1,650m) and Gibson is expecting a good result from Ruan Maia’s mount.
“The old man Right Honourable has been a wonderful servant to the stable, and he’s now off a good mark and draws well,” said Gibson of the 57-rated eight-year-old, who won over the Sha Tin 1,200m last season off 59 and whose five course-and-distance wins have occurred off 56, 58 (twice), 59 and 61.
Gibson reports Wellington, whose rating rose from 123 to 128 following his Group Two Premier Bowl (1,200m) win at Sha Tin on October 23, will “do his first bit of easy exercise since racing” on Tuesday.
Assessing the overseas entries for Wellington’s chief target, the Group One Longines Hong Kong Sprint (1,200m) at Sha Tin on December 11, Gibson commented it was too soon to make predictions.
“From experience, you take the international entries with a pinch of salt. They’re difficult to dissect at such an early stage. But the race has attracted a wonderful bunch of Group One winners,” Gibson said.