No horse was given less chance, at least according to the betting board, but that didn’t stop a rejuvenated seven-year-old Wishful Thinker storming to victory in the Group 2 Premier Bowl Handicap (1200m) at Sha Tin yesterday (18 October).
The gelding, having just his third start for trainer Dennis Yip, was sent out at win odds of +4400 but surged late to overhaul the Tony Cruz-favourite Computer Patch by a short head with Rattan, the second least fancied of the seven runners, two and a quarter lengths back in third for Richard Gibson who formerly prepared the winner.
Wishful Thinker was winless last season, after six wins in his first two terms post-import from Australia, but he ran with some credit; finishing a neck third, behind Seasons Bloom, in this race and being beaten just one and a half lengths when sixth to Beat The Clock in the LONGINES Hong Kong International Sprint.
And now, despite his age and the weight advantage he enjoyed today, he may not be an unrealistic contender – at the very least among the locally trained horses – for this year’s HK$22 million Hong Kong Sprint showpiece. Aerovelocity, at eight in 2016, is the only HKIR Sprint winner older than six years.
Three horses have claimed the rich December Sprint prize after winning the Premier Bowl in the same season – Absolute Champion (2006), Aerovelocity (2014) and Mr Stunning (2017).
Winning jockey Derek Leung said Yip’s decision to take the blinkers off the seven-year-old was one of the keys to his success along with the genuine pace at which the race was run.
“We took the blinkers off and kept him fresh for today. He was more relaxed today, tried hard and raced very good. Last time he was bumped the beginning and then we tried to chase the winner and he got a bit keen,” Leung said of his distant fourth behind yesterday’s runner-up in the Group 3 National Day Cup Handicap (1000m) on 1 October.
“This time he raced much better with the blinkers off and last time he carried top weight and this time he carried the low weight. The weight helped him a lot and the pace was good which suited the horses coming from behind.”
“I hope so,” Leung said when asked whether the Hong Kong Sprint might be on his agenda, “I’m sure he will run there”.
Karis Teetan, who rode the runner-up Computer Patch (117lb), was not discouraged by the performance of the lightly raced four-year-old who may also be December bound.
“He got to the front without doing much work but he was very green in front in the straight. I think if a horse came next to him it would have encouraged him to go. He was by himself and got a bit lost to be honest. He never stopped. He did everything right. I just thought the way the race was run, I would have liked something to have gone with him earlier,” Teetan said.
Last year’s Hong Kong Sprint runner-up Hot King Prawn (133lb) stepped out for the first time this season and finished a creditable fourth, for John Size and Joao Moreira.