Horse Racing
Bubbles bursting for breakthrough in Sha Tin Vase

By Andrew Hawkins
25/05/2018 16:41

Lucky Bubbles makes his G1 breakthrough in the Chairman’s Sprint Prize last season.
Lucky Bubbles makes his G1 breakthrough in the Chairman’s Sprint Prize last season.

Jockey Brett Prebble concedes that Sunday’s (27 May) G3 Sha Tin Vase Handicap (1200m) shapes as D-day for Lucky Bubbles as the Group 1 winner looks to return to the winners’ circle for the first time this season.

“He should be winning, shouldn’t he? On his form, he’s got a good gate (three), there’s a fast horse in there who should lead at a quick tempo; there are plenty of ticks there,” Prebble said at Sha Tin on Friday morning (25 May). “If he doesn’t put his hand up now and have a bit of a kill, it’s only going to be a slippery slide from there.”

The Francis Lui-trained Lucky Bubbles returned from a three-month break to defend his title in the G1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize (1200m) on 29 April. In the end, he could not retain the crown, finishing fifth to Ivictory.

“It was probably a bit below par,” Prebble admitted. “He’d obviously had a decent break and he was coming back off that lay-off and he was racing horses that had been up all season and were very fit. It was a decent field that time, it was probably the best horses we’ve got, and he had a couple of excuses.

“He got a check just on straightening when Mr Stunning came out underneath his neck, which stopped his momentum, and he got a little bit tired late so I think he’ll definitely come on for that run.”

That last run was the first time that Prebble had ridden Lucky Bubbles in over a year; the Australian rider had partnered the Sebring six-year-old at his first 16 Hong Kong starts before Hugh Bowman took the reins for his Chairman’s Sprint Prize victory.

“He definitely didn’t feel the same horse that he used to, but he’s got older and he’s probably got a few niggles,” Prebble said. “His action felt comfortable, though, he pulled up clean and he’s been very well since that. We gave him a nice blow in his trial recently; when I pushed the button, he extended well the last 150m and that was a positive sign.”

Lucky Bubbles passes the post first in his recent trial on dirt.

Lui is eyeing off a step up to 1400m with Lucky Bubbles (131lb), with the G3 Premier Cup Handicap on 24 June his anticipated season finale. He has not stepped beyond 1200m since finishing fourth to Sun Jewellery in the 2016 Hong Kong Classic Mile, a race in which he just held off Sunday’s rival Thewizardofoz (133lb).

“I think he’s looking for 1400m, so we’ll see how he runs this weekend but the plan is to go to the Premier Cup,” Lui said. “If it is a similar group of horses to those who run on the weekend, then I think he would be able to win, although Thewizardofoz was very good in winning the Premier Cup last year.”

Lui also sends out Born In China (119lb) in the Sha Tin Vase. The trainer has long believed that the Shamardal seven-year-old has had a stakes win in him, but he says that it has been tough to manage the bay’s career.

“He’s always got a few little issues, he’s not the soundest horse,” Lui said. “We have to back off him a few times a season, and Happy Valley suits him better because there is some give in the track. He’s OK currently, though, he can do something in this race.”

A winner of the Britannia Handicap at Royal Ascot as a three-year-old, defeating horses like Bow Creek and Hors De Combat, the former Born In Bombay has shaped more as a sprinter in his time in Hong Kong.

“He has a good turn of foot at the end of his races, particularly over 1200m,” Lui said. “He’s well-weighted here and if any rain comes, I think he is a very big chance. If not and it is firm, he is still a chance but it’s harder for him to let down.”

Regular rider Douglas Whyte will maintain his association with Born In China, with the pair to jump from gate seven in the eight-horse field.

Also contesting the weekend’s sprint feature are Tony Cruz-trained pair Winner’s Way (123lb) and Wah May Friend (113lb), the Frankie Lor-prepared Dundonnell (119lb) and trainer Chris So’s speedy conveyance Fabulous One (113lb).

The Sha Tin Vase is scheduled for 2pm as the fourth race on the 11-race card.