Wellington scorches Sha Tin as Group One test beckons
He has a Chairman’s Sprint Prize on his mantle thanks to Gold-Fun in 2015 and Richard Gibson has his sights set on adding another after Wellington’s scorching victory in the Class One Lantau Island Handicap (1,200m) at Sha Tin on Saturday.
Gibson had no hesitation throwing his four-year-old in the deep end against some of Hong Kong’s top sprinters and his decision was vindicated, with Wellington stopping the clock in 1:07.80 to equal Sacred Kingdom’s Class One 1,200m record.
“He’s certainly one of the fastest horses I’ve trained – the only way to describe him is fast,” Gibson said after Wellington sailed past the likes of Hot Kong Prawn and Computer Patch.
Rated 30 points below Hot King Prawn, Wellington found himself significantly out of the handicap but his 20-pound advantage in the weights was more than enough to give him the upper hand over the Group One winner.
“Of course until you run against the very best there is always a doubt but if we were going to try our luck against the very best it was today because we had a big advantage in the handicap,” Gibson said.
After travelling midfield on the rail under Alexis Badel, Wellington worked into the clear entering the straight and motored home in a final 400m of 21.62 seconds.
“His best performance was when he came from behind last season and we always thought it would be better today taking a seat and finishing strongly,” Gibson said.
The victory will see Wellington’s rating sky rocket from 96 to somewhere north of 110 and Gibson confirmed the gelding will make the step-up to the Group Two Sprint Cup (1,200m) on April 5.
All going well it will be full steam ahead to the Group One Chairman’s Sprint Prize (1,200m) on Champions Day and the Englishman is confident Wellington can be competitive against the best speedsters at level weights.
“He went past some very good horses very easily today, which is always a good sign,” Gibson said of Wellington, who has now won six of his eight career starts.
Badel relished to opportunity to reunite with Wellington and the pair is now three from three after the Frenchman was in the saddle for the son of All Too Hard’s first two starts.
Zac Purton then took the reins for three wins from five attempts but Badel was quick to seize on the opportunity presented by Wellington’s featherweight of 113 pounds.
“He’s obviously very talented and the light weight was a huge advantage in that handicap race,” Badel said.
“He’s got an explosive turn of foot. I was just looking for a comfortable race without too much fight and the horse has shown his brilliant turn of foot once again.
“I wasn’t sure about the pace but what I know about this horse is that he likes to chase other horses. When he hits the front too soon, he can think the job is done.”