Rattan shocked two G1 winners in Mr Stunning and Beat The Clock to score an unexpected victory in the G2 Sprint Cup (1200m) under jockey Chad Schofield at Sha Tin this afternoon (Sunday, 7 April).
“If we were going to beat those two top horses, it was going to be today with the allowance,” trainer Richard Gibson said of the 16/1 success.
The newly-acquainted Mr Stunning (128lb) and Zac Purton controlled the race from the get-go, running 24.91s for the first 400m. But Joao Moreira was unhappy with the leader’s pace and elected to advance his mount Beat The Clock to pressure the leader, forcing the pace through 21.64s for the second 400m.
“The race planned out beautifully, the top two went against each other, maybe a touch early and our stamina kicked in the finish,” Gibson said.
Mr Stunning and Beat The Clock went toe-to-toe for the better part of the final 400m, playing into the hands of Rattan who used his best asset to finish over the top of them.
“The horse is always in great condition, he trialled like a very good horse against Beauty Generation, so we knew we had the horse in the right shape for a race like today,” the trainer said.
The five-year-old, whose previous wins had been at 1400m and a mile, trialled in blinkers and Gibson felt the addition of that gear was required on race day if the horse was to be competitive over 1200m.
“We all thought going shorter with blinkers would be a good option for the horse,” he said.
Rattan carried 123lb to win, 5lb less than the G1-penalised Mr Stunning and Beat The Clock.
“I thought with the five-pound difference, I thought we just might have the edge on them,” Gibson said.
Schofield also felt the race was run to suit, with Hong Kong’s two top-rated sprinters getting into a tough fight a long way out.
“Both Zac and I jumped really quickly and Zac obviously wanted to lead with no pressure so I just wanted to hunt up and make him do a bit of work, inject a bit of speed, but I eventually took a sit and got cover. I wanted to go nice and early because my horse was dropping back in trip and he’d tough it for longer than the other two could. He only got there late but it was a good win: very satisfying!” Schofield said.
“He’s a very underrated horse and he keeps flying under the radar. He’s done us all proud.”
Schofield has won five races on Rattan and has been aboard the gelding in all but eight of his 21 starts.
“I’m very happy for the horse, I’ve won a lot of races on him now: I’ve ridden him right from Class 4 and for him to beat the two best sprinters in Hong Kong today was a great feeling and well done to Richard and his team,” he said.
Gibson added: “Chad knows the horse so well, we thought both scenarios would be good if the horse jumped well we would be cool and relaxed, and if he jumped badly we would be cool and react.”
Rattan will now target the G1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize (1200m) on FWD Champions Day in three weeks’ time (28 April).
Gibson responded, “Yes, of course,” when asked about Rattan’s participation in that international feature.
Rattan will face stiff opposition. Both Mr Stunning and Beat The Clock are expected to take their places, while Australia’s Santa Ana Lane, who won yesterday’s (6 April) G1 T. J. Smith Stakes (1200m) at Randwick, is also engaged.
Schofield is hoping for a truer pace in the G1.
“Hopefully, in the Chairman’s Sprint Prize, there can be a lot more tempo than there was today. There wasn’t a lot of speed in the first half of the race today and if there’s a lot of speed up front he’ll appreciate that and could finish even better,” Schofield said.
Trainer Richard Gibson combined with jockey Matthew Chadwick to record a historic first race win at the inaugural Hong Kong Jockey Club race meeting at Conghua Racecourse today (Saturday, 23 March), marking a new era of horseracing in the Greater Bay Area.
They won the Hong Kong Jockey Club Trophy (1200m), with the Edmond Yue Kwok Yin-owned Nordic Warrior, which opened the five-race card at the first meeting conducted in the Mainland under the Jockey Club’s jurisdiction in collaboration with the Conghua District Government.
Gibson was delighted to be first on the training winner’s list at Conghua and said the victory fulfilled a prophecy he’d made when he first arrived in Hong Kong for the 2011-2012 season.
“Absolutely this is a very big buzz and big career moment to win the first race here in Conghua and Matthew gave the horse a wonderful ride and we’re delighted. From the moment this race came on our radar we targeted this horse for the race. We expected the pace to be very strong, we know our good horse is a good finisher and Matthew gave him a wonderfully cool, calculated ride.
“I did say when I got the job in Hong Kong I wanted to be the first winner in Conghua. If you look back at the press conference, I said that in quite a loud voice. I’m looking forward to training here, our horses are doing great here and it’s great to be part of history today and to get the Cup from [HKSAR Chief Executive] Mrs Carrie Lam is obviously an extra privilege for us as well,” Gibson said.
Chadwick, a graduate of the Hong Kong Jockey Club Apprentice Jockeys’ School, was similarly pleased to have his name in the record books.
“It couldn’t have gone better, it was basically a text book ride and he was too good on the day. It’s first time up here for a meeting like this and I’m very happy to be part of it,” Chadwick said.
Chadwick described the track as being in perfect condition. “The track is beautiful. The bit of rain probably helped. The rain made it nice, perfect, beautiful.”
Nordic Warrior runs in the Yue family colours and Gibson made a point of noting the family’s contribution to Hong Kong racing.
“Sometimes I don’t think the owners get the recognition they deserve and this owner Mr Yue is one of the long standing and most respected owners in Hong Kong. It’s a wonderful, special tribute to him to come up here in his 80’s today and see his colours perform and he was terribly excited before the race. It’s a huge Hong Kong proud moment for him as well and a great credit to him and a special tribute to a man who’s been a wonderful owner in Hong Kong,” the handler said.