He did not get the result he wanted with Wellington in the Group One Centenary Sprint Cup (1,200m) at Sha Tin on Sunday, but Richard Gibson was in good spirits all the same after landing a double.
While he had to settle for second behind Lucky Sweynesse in the feature, Gibson landed his first double since April last year thanks to the victories of Ernest Feeling and Happy Together, moving to five wins for the campaign.
“I woke up this morning for the first time in maybe two seasons thinking I was going to have a treble, but I’ll take two,” Gibson said.
Gibson confirmed, all being well, four-time Group One winner Wellington will defend his title in next month’s Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup (1,400m).
Lucky Sweynesse is far too good in the G1 Centenary Sprint Cup under @zpurton for Manfred Man! 💫#SpeedSeries | #HKracing pic.twitter.com/jcYUBGqB1e— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) February 5, 2023
“It wasn’t a bad effort from Wellington. I don’t think we saw the best of Wellington today, but huge credit to the winning connections and well done Lucky Sweynesse. He’s the best horse today and all the credit goes to them,” he said.
Gibson is also holding out hope he could target a feature race with Happy Together, who took out the Class Three Wu King Handicap (1,600m).
While Happy Together has developed a reputation as a fast finisher in his short Hong Kong career and flashed home for second behind subsequent Classic Mile winner Voyage Bubble last start, the four-year-old travelled much handier under Alexis Badel this time around before saluting as the $4.45 favourite.
“I don’t think it suited him as much to be right out on pace, but we had an unlucky race last time, so that’s where he was and it was job done,” Gibson said.
Happy Together lifts for @AlexisBadel! 💪 The 2023 Derby prospect toughs it out for a first win in Hong Kong. #4YOSeries | #HKracing pic.twitter.com/wFhn7JqOJ2— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) February 5, 2023
Happy Together’s rating will now be somewhere in the low to mid 70s, and while Gibson is confident his charge will improve as he steps out in trip, he is conscious of the fact he is likely to need to more points to make it into the Classic Cup (1,800m) and the Hong Kong Derby (2,000m).
Shinn to ride Galaxy Witness
Caspar Fownes and Blake Shinn will chase more big-race success in the Hong Kong Classic Cup (1,800m) later this month, with the in-form Australian jockey to jet in to partner Galaxy Witness in the second leg of the Classic Series.
Galaxy Witness ran home strongly for fifth in a slowly run Hong Kong Classic Mile last month and Fownes believes Shinn is the right man to partner the 84-rated four-year-old.
“It was a nice run. He closed off in the fastest sectional of the race, which is encouraging,” Fownes said.
“He pulled up well, and he’s in good form, I think, at this stage, the race is very open. Nothing has come out and said ‘I’m a superstar’.
Voyage Bubble goes all the way! 🔥 @jamieleekah07 gets the best out of the Deep Field gelding to win the HK$12 million Hong Kong Classic Mile. #4YOSeries | #HKracing pic.twitter.com/3zlVpp94Zv— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) January 29, 2023
“I’ve had a lot of success with Blake, and I think he’ll suit that type of horse. Give him a chance to get the trip and then we’ll see.”
Shinn, who teamed up with Fownes to win the 2021 Group One Hong Kong Sprint (1,200m) with Sky Field, tasted Classic Series success during his time based in the city, taking out the 2021 Classic Mile aboard the John Size-trained Excellent Proposal.
Fownes is no stranger to extracting the best out of four-year-olds at trips longer than their optimum, winning the 2011 Hong Kong Classic Mile with Lucky Nine and the 2008 Classic Cup with Green Birdie before both gallopers went on to be Group One-winning sprinters.
“We’re going to stretch his distance an extra furlong and see how we go,” said Fownes, who boasts Hong Kong Derby victories with Super Satin (2010) and Sky Darci (2021).
“You have to stretch them out. The money is there, and even if you’re not winning, you can still collect a big cheque. These sort of races, if things work out well for you, you can snag one.”
Fownes will try a less orthodox approach with his other Hong Kong Classic Mile runner Viva Chaleur, taking the galloper to Happy Valley for an 85-60-rated Class Three mile contest in a bid to spark him up after a plain 12th.
“I’ve decided to back him up on Wednesday because his run in the Classic Mile wasn’t what it should have been,” Fownes said.
Lucky Sweynesse caps weekend to savour for Man with Centenary Sprint Cup victory
“But he’s a colt, we can forgive him one run and he’s pulled up well, he looks beautiful and he’s eating well. We’ll back him up in a short period of time and see if we can switch him back on because he’s got what it takes to be a very smart horse.
“We’ll see if we can take him there and get him to do something nice, and if he comes out and gives us a big run, we’ll be back on track.
“We’ll see if we go to the Classic Cup. We’ve got options. There’s races coming up – there’s a mile and there’s an 1,800m early March where you can look at taking a different route [to the Derby] if we feel we want to do that.”