Alexis Badel hopes to convert a late change of plans into G2 Premier Bowl Handicap (1200m) triumph with Naboo Attack at Sha Tin on Sunday (17 October) as compensation for the absence of Wellington – the Frenchman’s provisional booking for the feature sprint.
David Hayes seized on lightweight Badel’s availability after G1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize-winning Wellington was ruled out of the crucial early-season skirmish among Hong Kong’s leading sprint contenders with a minor niggle.
Badel, who switches from Hayes’s last-start winner Super Wealthy to partner the hulking Naboo Attack, hopes fortune is on his side.
“Naboo Attack is a very talented horse. I think he has the quality to win a race such as this one,” Badel said. “I think he will run a good race, he’s got a good gate. There’s plenty of speed in the race, which is very suitable for the horse. He’s bottom-weight (114lb) in the race, which is a big advantage.”
Joking that he might need a helicopter to mount the towering Australian import, who is among the largest horses in Hong Kong, Badel is Naboo Attack’s fourth different rider in as many Hong Kong starts, following in the footsteps of Vincent Ho, Karis Teetan and Zac Purton.
With Badel committed to Naboo Attack, Chad Schofield takes over on Super Wealthy in a contest featuring Sky Field (133lb), Stronger (126lb), Computer Patch (123lb) and Lucky Patch (122lb) and the brilliant, unbeaten Courier Wonder (120lb).
Joao Moreira rides Courier Wonder and is confident John Size’s charge can retain his perfect record after five successive victories last season.
“He’s a promising, exciting horse and I’m really looking forward to getting back on the horse,” the Brazilian said. “He’s where we expect him to be. He might not be 100 percent, but he’s a very progressive type of horse.”
Blake Shinn is similarly upbeat over Sky Field’s prospects after a slashing last-start second to Super Wealthy over 1000m on 1 October.
“It was great to see him put in such a great performance (first-up), obviously with such a big weight (133lb) it wasn’t easy to do, but he’s a quality galloper and it was great to see the horse come back and show he’s going to be a real force in these big sprints in coming months,” Shinn said.
“Obviously the only thing against him again are the handicap conditions, but I’m going in full of confidence. We’ve drawn a great barrier in two, I can’t see why he can’t go close to winning again.”
Armed with a host of top rides across the program, Moreira believes BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) Sky Darci will be well suited in the G2 Oriental Watch 60th Anniversary Sha Tin Trophy (1600m) after a last-start third.
“Last time, he was a bit unlucky. This time, he should run a better race. I think the distance is going to suit him,” said Moreira, who will also partner C P Brave for Tony Millard in the Class 2 Parmigiani Fleurier Excellent Handicap (1800m) and also Size’s Fantastic Way, who clashes with unconquered Fantastic Treasure in the Class 2 Piaget Excellent Handicap (1200m).
Schofield, who was atop Fantastic Treasure in each of the four-year-old’s five victories last season, expects another positive campaign.
“I’m really excited, he’s been going really well. He’s furnished further into a nice, big horse now. It’s exciting to have him back,” Schofield said of the Hayes-trained galloper.
“Unfortunately, he hasn’t drawn a good gate (barrier nine), which makes things a bit tougher but he’s a good horse and good horses can overcome things.
“He’s definitely stronger now and for that reason, I’m excited to see what he can do this season. This is his hardest task but everything he’s done so far, he’s just kept raising the bar and kept doing what we’ve asked him to do.
“Even though this looks like a much stiffer task, there’s no reason for anyone to think he can’t do it. “Like any good horse, he gets the job done – he is a good horse and he gets the job done.”
Sunday’s (17 October) 10-race card starts at 1pm with the Class 4 Girard-Perregaux Excellent Handicap (2000m).