Badel wary of Wellington challengers in G2 Premier Bowl
Bidding to end Zac Purton’s dominance of Hong Kong feature races, Alexis Badel hopes Wellington’s class will prove decisive when Richard Gibson’s star sprinter resumes in a pivotal edition of the G2 Premier Bowl Handicap (1200m) at Sha Tin on Sunday (23 October).
To carry 135lb from barrier seven, Wellington faces a string of familiar rivals as he chases an 11th career win as part of a preparation designed to peak for the HK$24 million G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) on 11 December.
While Badel is respectful of the established guard formed by G1 winners Sky Field (131lb) and Stronger (130lb), he is particularly wary of emerging threats Lucky Sweynesse (124lb) and Cordyceps Six (122lb) in Sunday’s HK$5 million feature.
“It’s never easy, especially when you have young, rising stars who are carrying less weight than Wellington on this occasion. It’s a bit of a concern, but the horse has proven his quality and hopefully he will be fit enough to run a very good race,” the Frenchman said.
“Wellington is proven to be one of the best horses in Hong Kong and he just needs to repeat what he can do.
“Lucky Sweynesse seems to be a very good horse, very promising. His first-up win was very convincing, he has trialled very well since then, he seems to be in good form at the moment and he carries less weight as well.
“It’s not an easy race. There are many other horses that have a good chance as well. It’s very open. Cordyceps Six has been doing very well. It’s a tough race.”
Gibson is plotting a conservative path towards the LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint with Wellington.
“We decided with the owners that we wanted to run him twice before the (Hong Kong) International Races. We had some irritating problems with him this time last year and if anything, he’s ahead of schedule this year as opposed to the previous year,” Gibson said before turning his attention to Cordyceps Six, winner of six of 13 races.
“I think very, very few three-year-olds have achieved what he’s achieved. This is an interesting horse to train because he wouldn’t be very expressive in the morning. In fact, I would put his trackwork as below par but he’s a very, very gutsy brave horse and he keeps his best for raceday which is the sign of a good horse.
“He just keeps on delivering on raceday. What he’s achieved in his short career is exceptional and I’m very confident he’ll have another good season.”
Cordyceps Six will jump from gate six under Lyle Hewitson, taking over from Blake Shinn who has returned to Australia.
“I’m delighted that Lyle is on him because I thought Blake Shinn rode this horse very well and I think Lyle and Blake are quite similar riders.”
Zac Purton has won all three of Hong Kong’s feature races so far this season – the G3 Celebration Cup Handicap (1400m) and G2 Oriental Watch Sha Tin Trophy Handicap (1600m) on California Spangle and the G3 National Day Cup Handicap (1000m) on Super Wealthy – but he sounded a note of caution over Hong Kong Champion Griffin and recent Class 1 HKSAR Chief Executive’s Cup Handicap (1200m) winner Lucky Sweynesse’s chances this Sunday from barrier 11 in the 12-horse field.
“He keeps on raising the bar, he’s got to carry a little more weight this time and he’s drawn really awkwardly so it’s a big task ahead of him, but he deserves his place in the field and see how he goes,” Purton said, while assessing the gelding’s first-up triumph.
“It was certainly impressive, he was slow out of the gate, he had to do a lot of work in the early and mid-stages to get the position that he had in a really fast run race and then he accelerated very nicely when he was asked and put them to bed, so he could not have been any more impressive, really.
“One of the only things he does wrong is that he doesn’t hit the ground running, that’s something he needs to get right from a bad gate – this is a different class of race, there’s going to be more pressure, I would assume.
“If he can clean up his manners and get out of the gates a little bit better and he’s got that tendency to hang in in the straight. They’re the two things that you need to help him with, but everything else he’s pretty good with – he gets it right.”
Sunday’s (23 October) 10-race card starts with the Class 5 Woodpecker Handicap (1400m) at 1pm.