The HK$12 million Group 1 Centenary Sprint Cup (1200m) continues a blockbuster stretch of Hong Kong racing this weekend at Sha Tin when the might of Wellington – Hong Kong Champion Sprinter (2021/22) – takes centre stage.
Richard Gibson’s star speedster will be looking to join elite company by becoming only the second horse in history to win all three top-level sprint contests in Hong Kong as well as the Group 1 Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup (1400m) – a remarkable feat achieved by only the immortal Silent Witness.
All that’s missing from Wellington’s haul is success in the Centenary Sprint Cup to go along with his victories in the 2022 Group 1 Hong Kong Sprint (1200m), 2021 and 2022 Group 1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize (1200m) and 2022 Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup.
A 12-time winner from 19 starts in Hong Kong, Wellington boasts earnings of HK$56.58 million and will reunite with familiar ally Alexis Badel this weekend after the Frenchman was forced to miss his Hong Kong Sprint success last month due to injury when Ryan Moore deputised.
“It was a tough moment. I decided to go to the races and support the team because that’s how it works – it’s a team effort and I did that instead of watching the race at home.
“He’s such a talented horse, so there was no surprise to see him win it, considering he’s beaten a lot of those horses in the past. So he was just doing what he can do – his best,” Badel said.
Prior to last month’s Hong Kong Sprint, Badel had partnered Wellington to each his top-level wins in Hong Kong.
“The life of a jockey is up and down, it’s never smooth and that’s what it is and you have to accept it. I’m just happy to be back, I’m very motivated and hungry.
“It’s never easy as a jockey because you become a spectator and it’s not ideal but on the other side it’s just a job, if you focus on your whole career, it’s only a minor, small event and if you put it in perspective, it’s quite easy to move forward and bounce back,” Badel said.
Wellington won the Group 2 Premier Bowl Handicap (1200m) first-up this term before suffering defeat in the Group 2 Jockey Club Sprint (1200m).
“He’s super talented, he’s got the confidence and he’s just too good – he’s just a great horse.
“He trialled alright, he’s had a little bit of holidays since the Hong Kong Sprint. I was very happy to see him back at the trials and that was pretty satisfying – I’m happy,” Badel said.
Sunday’s Centenary Sprint Cup will kick off Hong Kong’s three-race Speed Series, which also features the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup run on 19 March and closes with the Chairman’s Sprint Prize on 30 April at FWD Champions Day.
If successful in all three legs, the connections of Wellington or the winning connections of the triumphant horse will receive a HK$5 million bonus for their efforts.
Courier Wonder, Duke Wai, Lucky Sweynesse, Master Eight, Sight Success, Sky Field and Super Wealthy also hold entries for Sunday’s Centenary Sprint Cup.
“Lucky Sweynesse is the rising star and he was unlucky in the Hong Kong Sprint. Sight Success has always been a tough competitor too – I always try to not underestimate these horses,” Badel said.