Alexis Badel attributes Group Two Jockey Club Sprint (1,200m) favourite Wellington’s four-race winning streak – Hong Kong’s best active sequence – to the speedster’s professional growth that has made it “even easier to use his great ability” on the track.
Not for the first time, Wellington was his own worst enemy in last year’s Jockey Club Sprint, expending unnecessary energy by racing keenly in the early stages and finishing a career-worst seventh.
Hampered in the Group One Hong Kong Sprint (1,200m) and held up in the Group One Centenary Sprint Cup (1,200m), Wellington put it all together from the inside gate to win the Group One Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup (1,400m), and he has not put a hoof wrong since despite several difficult draws.
Four weeks ago, Wellington produced arguably the finest performance of his 17-start career, jumping from barrier seven, carrying 135 pounds and stopping the clock just 0.28 seconds outside Sacred Kingdom’s 15-year-old Sha Tin track record in winning the Group Two Premier Bowl (1,200m) under handicap conditions meant to level the playing field.
Badel has been on Wellington for eight of his 11 victories, including his winning run comprising successes in the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup, Group Two Sprint Cup (1,200m), Group One Chairman’s Sprint Prize (1,200m) and Premier Bowl. He believes the six-year-old galloper is almost the finished article.
“I think he’s obviously a very gifted horse. He’s got the natural ability. But he’s gained maturity – year after year, season after season – so now he’s more professional, and it’s even easier to use his great ability,” said Badel of his marquee mount.
“Last time, the conditions weren’t in our favour, so it was a big, big Wellington on that day. I had an absolutely perfect race as well. The way he began from the machine – everything went perfectly. I just hope he can carry on the same way on Sunday.
“I don’t want to underestimate anybody, but the good Wellington is the best horse in the race.”
Wellington, sans Badel, galloped on Sha Tin’s all-weather track on Thursday morning, after which the French jockey chatted with trainer Richard Gibson.
“I spoke to Richard [after Wellington’s piece of work] and he said to me the horse was good, so touch wood, everything seems to be OK,” Badel said.
Wellington is set to start the Jockey Club Sprint from gate seven, the same barrier from which he began the Premier Bowl and Sprint Cup contests.
Badel rode Wellington aggressively in the opening 400m of the Premier Bowl, but that was not a preconceived plan. He has an open mind about the tactics he will employ in the Jockey Club Sprint.
“There’s no preconception. It’s all about the jump and the pace in the race. If they go too quick, I’ll be more patient. If he jumps good, I can go forward,” said Badel, who sits just below the cut line for the International Jockeys’ Championship (IJC) at Happy Valley with two meetings to go before the Jockey Club finalises the December 7 field.
The winner of 11 races this term, Badel appears to be in a four-way fight with Matthew Chadwick (12), Lyle Hewitson (10) and Luke Ferraris (10) for the last IJC spot.
“That would be very nice,” said Badel about how he would feel about making the IJC line-up for the third year in a row.
“It’s always interesting to be there, especially if I can represent Hong Kong. It’s not easy because everything’s very competitive at the moment, and [Matthew] Chadwick seems to have a great momentum, so I need to do very well also and stay focused.”