Alexis Badel and Wellington are both under an injury cloud less than three weeks out from the Longines Hong Kong International Races.
The French jockey underwent a series of scans on Monday following what he described as a “brutal” fall from Fantastic Way at Sha Tin on Sunday, and he’s still waiting to find out the extent of his shoulder and ankle injuries.
Badel dislocated his shoulder after being speared into the turf in the final stages of Sunday’s penultimate race, but he was able to walk off the track before being taken to hospital.
Wellington pulled up lame in his right hind leg following his disappointing sixth under Badel in the Jockey Club Sprint, and trainer Richard Gibson is unsure if the three-time Group One winner will be fit in time for the Hong Kong Sprint.
“He’s been issued with an official veterinary examination today that he has to pass before his next run,” Gibson said.
“We’ll just have to play it by ear. We’ll just have to let nature take its course, and if he’s ready, he’s ready.”
Man’s Lucky charm
There were sparkling performances across the board at Sha Tin on Sunday – with Golden Sixty and Romantic Warrior turning in efforts that suggest they’ll be very hard to beat on international day – but in terms of significance, it’s hard to go past the showing of Lucky Sweynesse.
Manfred Man Ka-leung declared the speedster the best horse he’s trained after the four-year-old’s Jockey Club Sprint victory, and if he goes on to be the genuine Group One article, the galloper could play a role in extending his handler’s career.
Man has reached the mandatory retirement age of 65, and he doesn’t meet the traditional requirements for an extension. However, Jockey Club chief executive Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges confirmed the door remains open.
With Peter Ho Leung and Michael Chang Chun-wai one strike away from potentially losing their licences, and at least one expatriate handler believed to be considering his future beyond this season, Man could be given a reprieve.
“Lucky Sweynesse was very impressive, and it was a very impressive performance from the trainer,” Englebrecht-Bresges said.
“Manfred definitely makes a case that he should be considered, but we have to look at it towards the end of the season. We have criteria, which we’ll review with the licensing committee in February.
“At the moment, I don’t want to speculate because sometimes there are circumstances when trainers are retiring and [you don’t know] how many new trainers you can bring in. You have to look at the whole package. Let’s see how the season develops.”
Big numbers expected for HKIR
Jockey Club officials expect as many as 22 overseas raiders to be among the HKIR fields when they’re announced on Wednesday – a number that would be the most since 24 gallopers jetted in to tackle the four Group One features in 2018.
Well over half of that 22 is expected to come from Japan, with the likes of two-time Hong Kong Vase winner Glory Vase, recent Sprinters Stakes victor Gendarme and Sunday’s Mile Championship runner-up Danon The Kid expected to make the journey.
G1 Mile Championship won in brilliant style by 3c 10. SERIFOS (Daiwa Major x Sea Front🇫🇷 (Le Havre)) under an absolute screamer by Damian Lane🇦🇺, sheesh!— Graham Pavey $8 (@LongBallToNoOne) November 20, 2022
2nd 4c DANON THE KID
3rd 4f SODASHI, very brave
1.32.5 for the Mile
The festival of speed#JRA pic.twitter.com/HTdDLdbmTp
Engelbrecht-Bresges is “100 per cent convinced” legendary Irish handler Aidan O’Brien will have a presence, with Broome, Stone Age and Order Of Australia among his gallopers considered strong chances to run at HKIR.
Engelbrecht-Bresges is excited about the prospect of German Group One winner Mendocino tackling the Vase, while it’s hoped there’ll also be a French and British flavour among the fields.
Lost in the excitement
To say it was all happening at Sha Tin on Sunday would be something of an understatement, and there were a few things that may have got a little lost in the excitement of the Group Two contests and Badel’s dramatic fall late on the card.
It’s easy to take the feats of Zac Purton for granted, but for the star Australian to walk away with a four-timer – including a Group Two win aboard Lucky Sweynesse – was an extraordinary achievement after spending the week stuck inside with Covid-19 and only getting the all-clear to ride on Sunday morning.
Purton did not miss a beat, moving to 44 wins after just 20 meetings. He sits 25 victories clear of his nearest rival, Vincent Ho Chak-yiu, and despite missing last week’s Happy Valley meeting is still on track for more than 190 wins this term.
James McDonald’s extraordinary run of form continued with a double, and while Romantic Warrior’s win in the Jockey Club Cup stole the headlines, the New Zealander was also effusive in his praise for stablemate Victor The Winner.
Danny Shum Chap-shing’s four-year-old rung up his second win at start three, and McDonald believes the trainer has a smart one on his hands.
“Great performance. He feels a proper horse, and I think we’ll hear a lot of him. That was awesome. I’m rapt,” McDonald said.
Not so rapt was Silvestre de Sousa, who received a two-meeting suspension and a HK$90,000 fine for careless riding aboard Cordyceps Six in the Jockey Club Sprint.
It’s the Brazilian’s fourth ban of the season, and he will miss the meetings on December 21 and December 24.