Sweet Encounter and Alexis Badel, a horse and jockey with contrasting form figures, hope to play major parts in Saturday’s Class Three Panasonic Nanoe x Thermo Ventilator Handicap (1,400m) at Sha Tin.
One of six last-start winners in the card-closing race, Sweet Encounter surprised punters when he led all the way under Badel to win his debut assignment by two lengths at $15, before he carried 135 pounds, inclusive of his French rider, from the outside gate to beat his market rival, Blissful Star, narrowly.
Sweet Encounter, who is the right age to participate in this season’s Classic Series if he continues to please Badel and his trainer John Size, goes up in class but down in weight for his third-up test.
Badel, who rode Sweet Encounter when he made ground impressively to place third behind two higher-rated gallopers in his recent 1,200m Sha Tin dirt trial, hopes the four-year-old can remain undefeated.
“He’s been very good so far. Last time, he was given a difficult task with a lot of weight and a bad gate, but he managed to win the race. He seems to be good shape. We’ll try to keep going,” Badel said.
Sweet Encounter faces stiff competition as he seeks to stay unbeaten, with Irish import Happy Together, Beauty Charge, Voyage Bubble, Happy Daily and Stunning Impact also coming into the contest off last-start wins, plus there is Australian acquisition Sword Point to consider with champion jockey Zac Purton aboard.
Sword Point finished third in the Group Three Tulloch Stakes (1,850m) at Newcastle on his final start in Australia before he swapped Chris Waller for Frankie Lor Fu-chuen. Happy Together, then named Hotel Wren, took out a Leopardstown maiden prior to his switch from Noel Meade to Richard Gibson.
Hotel Wren (8/1) and Oisin Orr edge ahead close home in the Flat Is Back At Leopardstown Maiden over a mile. If all the racing is as exciting at @LeopardstownRC this summer then we will not be complaining! @tuvastables pic.twitter.com/TGy1n6HqE7— Racing TV (@RacingTV) April 2, 2022
Without a win since Wellington’s brilliant triumph in the Group Two Premier Bowl (1,200m) on October 23, Badel will not want to jump on Sweet Encounter having extended his losing sequence to 44 rides.
Badel, whose active streak of 35 rides without a victory is his worst run this term, is set to steer nine horses before he partners Sweet Encounter, among them two of Wellington’s stablemates in the Gibson yard, Baron Zee and Colourful Baron.
Wellington trialled over 1,200m on Sha Tin’s all-weather track on Friday morning as Badel and Gibson get him ready for next weekend’s Group Two Jockey Cup Sprint (1,200m) en route to the Group One dash at December’s Hong Kong International Races meeting.
“It was good, just a bit of routine exercise for him. He was very focused, and he felt good underneath,” said Badel after Wellington’s trial victory over the likes of Lucky Patch, Courier Wonder and Waikuku in 70.25 seconds.