Champions Day possible for Wellington
Richard Gibson believes Wellington is “a good possibility” of tackling Hong Kong’s best sprinters in April after the four-year-old landed his fifth win from seven starts at Sha Tin on Sunday.
Sent out a $3.05 second elect in the Class Two Fat Choi Handicap (1,200m), Wellington sat off lead pair Sight Success and Californiadeepshot before Zac Purton assumed control at the top of the straight and dug deep to hold off the barnstorming Duke Wai in the dying stages.
“We were up against some very good horses today but at one stage it looked like he was going to win the race very easily. He was tiring in the last 50m but it was an excellent performance,” Gibson said.
“We always thought race three this year would be his best race of the season. We also thought that he would improve when he hit 1,200m.”
Gibson will now target a Class One over 1,200m on March 13 with Wellington and said the Group One Chairman’s Sprint Prize (1,200m) on Champions Day is on the radar.
“These are the ones that get you out of bed in the morning – you don’t need an alarm clock when you’ve got Wellington,” he said. “He’s given me plenty of headaches along the way but I’m enjoying the ride.”
After three consecutive wins to begin his career, Wellington finished sixth as the $1.50 favourite last April and wasn’t seen again until his win in December after dealing with tendinitis.
After saluting over 1,000m on that occasion, the son of All Too Hard finished second over five furlongs – again at prohibitive odds – before improving his 1,200m record to four from four on Sunday.
“For his second race I would have preferred a 1,200m race and while he got beaten last time, we were still satisfied with the run,” Gibson said.
“We always thought there was going to be a big improvement today stepping up in trip and getting some more work in him – he’s been off for so long. We gave him quite a strong trial 10 days ago, which is rare for me, but he needs the work.”
Purton has been in the saddle for Wellington’s past five starts and he’s confident there is more to come from the gelding.
“He’s an exciting horse and like I said pre-race, I don’t think we’ve seen the best of him yet and I still don’t think we saw the best of him today,” the jockey said.
“He’s developing every start and he got seven-eighths of it right today and in the last eighth, the last 150m, he’s just not quite there yet but hopefully that will come.
“Richard has had a bit of a tough time with him having to stop-start with him all the time but he’s done a great job to get the record that the horse has got so far, let’s just hope that one day we can see the finished product.
“Let’s let him show us if he is [up to Group One level], he’s going to have to improve again on what he did today.”