Wellington banished early season setbacks with a classy win in last month’s G1 Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup (1400m) and, this Sunday (3 April) at Sha Tin, the talented bay tackles the G2 Sprint Cup (1200m) as he gears up for his shot at joining elite company with the defence of his G1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize (1200m) crown next month.
Six horses have retained their Chairman’s Sprint Prize mantle since the race’s inception in 1979: Semper Laetus (1981 & 1982), Mystic (1985 & 1986), Quicken Away (1989, 1990 & 1991), Mr Vitality (1995 & 1996), Silent Witness (2004 & 2005) and Lucky Nine (2013 & 2014) – an illustrious club forged in Hong Kong racing folklore.
And now, taking shape as Hong Kong’s unofficial kingpin of the sprint division, jockey Alexis Badel knew right from the beginning just how special Wellington could become.
“I’ve ridden several important horses but throughout my young career in Hong Kong, he has been the beginning of a lot of things, I knew since day one that he was a very, very important horse and that he was very good, since then I knew that he was top quality and as soon as you sit on a horse like this you know.
“The way I would describe his quality is related to his turn of foot – he always has a very good final sectional (time) in the straight and that makes him a very, very good horse, it makes a big difference between a good horse and a Group 1 horse – a true champion and he’s got that quality.
“When he is in good form, he has that explosive turn of foot that can make up a lot of ground over a short period of time and that’s his true quality, it was interesting to see him last time over 1400 metres, he was very relaxed but now we’re back to 1200 metres,” Badel said.