Richard Gibson is looking to the past as well as the future as he prepares Wishful Thinker for the biggest test of a burgeoning career in the Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint (1200m) at Meydan, Dubai on Saturday evening (30 March).
“We’re banking on the success of Hong Kong horses in these sprint races in Dubai – historically they’ve done very well,” the trainer said this morning (29 March).
Hong Kong’s Amber Sky took the Al Quoz Sprint in 2014 (when it was a 1000m contest) and Joy And Fun won the race when it was a G3 race in 2010. Sha Tin gallopers have secured a slew of placings, too: Joy And Fun was also third in 2012 and second in 2013; Peniaphobia took second in 2015 and third in 2016; and Eagle Regiment was third in 2013.
Gibson believes Wishful Thinker can enhance that record in the 1200m straight track charge and he has held that view for some time.
“We had this race in mind at the start of the season,” he said. “He’s the most improved sprinter in Hong Kong at the moment so I very much hope he can continue Hong Kong’s good tradition in this race.”
The Australian-bred, who will break nearest to the stands’ side from gate 13, showed progressive form in his first Hong Kong season, winning two from six starts. This term, the I Am Invincible gelding has lifted his game, winning four from eight. That quartet of victories has come in a concentrated batch since November.
“He beat Hot King Prawn last season when Hot King Prawn was winning all of those races,” Gibson said, recalling Wishful Thinker’s deep-closing surge last April, which overhauled the subsequent two-time G2 winner.
“This season, he’s continued to progress,” the Englishman added. “He’s won four of his last five races and not many horses can do that in Hong Kong – it’s quite a unique feat.”
Gibson saw little of Wishful Thinker’s eve-of-race exercise. The five-year-old emerged from thick fog as he eased down from a steady canter, disappearing again into the murk after passing through a brief 30-metre stretch of visibility.
Stablemate Gold Mount had come out of the misty grey blanket seconds earlier.
“I couldn’t be happier with both horses,” Gibson said.
Going for Gold