Fully recovered from injury, Alexis Badel hopes to seal his comeback to race riding in triumph when partnering Cordyceps Six in the HK$3.9 million Group 3 Bauhinia Sprint Trophy Handicap (1000m) at Sha Tin on Sunday (8 January).
Sidelined since a fall on 20 November, Badel returns with five rides headed by Richard Gibson's emergent sprinter Cordyceps Six and the Frenchman is confident fitness will not be an issue as he aims to build on the 11 wins he has collected so far this season.
“I feel great, actually. I've been working a lot on my rehab with the medical staff and I was very lucky to have a lot of people to help me recover quicker and to be in good condition,” Badel said. “I feel great on the horses and I've been able to work a lot on my fitness even when I was injured.”
Bidding for a second victory on Cordyceps Six, Badel said: “He's a very talented horse – he has some class – and I think he's got a pretty good record over the 1000 metres at Sha Tin, so I expect him to run a very good race.
“He would deserve to win a race like this on Sunday. I would describe the race as very difficult with so many talented horses – it looks better than a Group 3 – but I believe my horse is going to run well and I'm very happy to ride him. If the pace is good and they run along, he will finish off well. There shouldn't be any excuses.”
Cordyceps Six (128lb) is one of seven horses who figure in a return bout from the Group 1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) – Sky Field (135lb), Super Wealthy (135lb), Sight Success (133lb), Courier Wonder (131lb), Stronger (129lb) and Duke Wai (128lb) are the others.
Leading the Hong Kong jockeys' championship by gaping 35 wins with 72 victories, Zac Purton takes the ride on John Size-trained Courier Wonder in the afternoon's feature, hopeful the Sacred Falls five-year-old can build on his strong last-start fourth.
“It (LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint) was one of those races where a couple of horses were ridden out of their comfort zones and then got in the way of other runners in the race and horses that were in the sweet spot – in the right positions – performed well,” Purton said.
“The form out of that race might be a bit misleading and it's a different race here, going up the straight. He's continued to improve from one run to the next this season and 1000 metres is not a problem. We're drawn on the wrong side of the track (barrier four), of course, so we're going to need to find the right spot, but he'll give himself a chance.”
The Class 3 (Restricted) Lung Fu Shan Handicap (1600m) shapes as a decisive race ahead of the first leg of the Four-Year-Old Classic Series and Hugh Bowman is optimistic Caspar Fownes-trained Viva Chaleur can strike on Sunday.
“His credentials suggest the mile will be to his liking but I'm a little disappointed with his draw (gate 11),” Bowman said. “He's a horse that needs to be switched off and relaxed early in his races.
“Regardless of all of that, the horse is ticking over really nicely. He's a particularly nice horse who is well placed in this race. If he can switch off and relax early in the race, he's a definite winning chance.”
Trained by Caspar Fownes – who is planning tilts at the Dubai World Cup carnival in March with Sky Field and Senor Toba – Viva Chaleur was Group 1-placed as a two-year-old in France in 2021.
Viva Chaleur will face a string of formidable opponents on Sunday, including David Hayes-trained Bon's A Pearla, who will start from gate 12 for Silvestre de Sousa and the Brazilian expects the filly to build on an eye-catching fourth at her Hong Kong debut over on 11 December.
“She's going nicely in the morning and she ran a good race last time out, finishing fourth. I look forward to the race and I think she's a nice ride to have and she should be competitive all day.”
A Group 2 winner over 1400m in Australia in 2021, Bon's A Pearla finished third in the Group 1 Australian Guineas (1600m) under Brett Prebble in March, 2022.
Sweet Encounter will also bid to enhance his stocks under Purton ahead of the HK$12 million Hong Kong Classic Mile (1600m) on January 29.
“He's got a good style, he gets up on the speed and keeps himself out of trouble,” Purton said. “He's had a couple of soft wins. He's lightly-raced, he's still on the way up and he's got to prove himself again at the weekend.”
Sunday's (8 January) 11-race card kicks off with the Class 5 Beacon Hill Handicap (1650m, dirt) at 12.30pm.More Hong Kong horse racing news