Group 1 action will dominate FWD Champions Day at Sha Tin on Sunday (26 April) but one of Hong Kong racing’s exciting young prospects will be out to grab a little of the limelight with the undefeated Wellington contesting the Class 3 Vengeance Of Rain Handicap (1400m).
Trainer Richard Gibson has Rattan and Wishful Thinker entered for their respective Group 1 assignments, but a victory for the handler’s potential star would indicate a bright future and even a possible Four-Year-Old Classic Series campaign next term.
Gibson enjoyed Classic Series success in 2013 when Gold-Fun took the Hong Kong Classic Mile and Akeed Mofeed the BMW Hong Kong Derby, and while Wellington has a long way to go before competing at that level, the gelding has done what few horses do – three wins from just three Hong Kong starts.
“Wellington has done very well – very few horses win three on the trot in Hong Kong but to make it four would be a great credit to his name,” Gibson said.
The three-year-old Australian-bred PPG (Privately Purchased Griffin) has already earned HK$2.2 million (approx. AUD$440,000).
“We thought we’d bought a very decent horse, the trackwork reports were very promising in Australia,” Gibson said, “But as we all know, there are a lot of boxes to tick before they adapt here and he had a very smooth transition into training and all of his trials were very good pre-debut, so we were crossing our fingers.”
Wellington steps up to 1400m for the first time. His sire All Too Hard was a Group 1 winner over 1600m in the 2012 Caulfield Guineas and followed that effort with runner-up in the 2012 Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) to Ocean Park, with five-time Group 1 winner Pierro in third.
“I’m pretty confident about the trip, we’ve drawn well so we’ll see if he can step up to the plate,” Gibson said.
“That will be him for the season, we’ll put him away, win lose or draw that’s him done for the season after this race.”
As for Gibson’s Group 1 hopes, Rattan represents the Englishman in the Group 1 FWD Champions Mile. The Savabeel gelding has proven to be an accomplished horse across his career as a seven-time winner, including last year’s Group 2 Sprint Cup (1200m). He also finished second in the Group 1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize (1200m) on this day last year, but this time has his sights on Beauty Generation and co. in the Mile.
The New Zealand-bred trialled on the Sha Tin dirt seven days ago with Neil Callan in the plate, who takes riding duties on Sunday.
“We’re just trying to keep him fresh and his energy levels as high as possible at the back end of the season,” Gibson said.
A three-time course and distance winner previously, the six-year-old is proven on soft ground, meaning the current sporadic showers should prove no hindrance to his chances.
“I think his chances increase with the recent rainfall, he loves some cut in the ground so the conditions give us a degree of a shout for some prize money,” Gibson said.
Wishful Thinker steps out for Gibson in the Group 1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize as he searches for his first win since March 2019, before his seventh-placed effort in the Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint (1200m) at Meydan Racecourse, Dubai.
“Wishful Thinker is a very consistent horse, there will be a lot of pace on in the race which is going to really suit him so we’ll see if he can come late,” Gibson said.
The I Am Invincible gelding will break from gate four with Frenchman Antoine Hamelin in the plate.