Gold Mount and Wishful Thinker will board a plane to Dubai on Saturday morning with trainer Richard Gibson looking forward to testing his talented duo on the Dubai World Cup card one week later, Saturday, 30 March.
A first overseas venture aside, both horses are entering unchartered waters: Gold Mount will step beyond 2400m for the first time when he takes his place in the G2 Dubai Gold Cup (3200m), while Wishful Thinker will get his initial experience of the Group 1 cauldron in the Al Quoz Sprint.
“We’re looking forward to it,” Gibson said at Sha Tin this morning (Friday, 22 March). “It’s always great to travel with these top international horses and we’re under no illusions as to the enormity of our task. Dubai’s a top place to go as a racehorse.”
Gold Mount’s résumé suggests the Dubai contest could be a good fit. The six-year-old has posted smart efforts at G1 level in Hong Kong without winning, notably when second in the QEII Cup (2000m) and third in the Champions & Chater Cup (2400m) at Sha Tin last year.
And his manner of racing, outpaced and dropped out early before running on late, has long suggested that the Excellent Art gelding might benefit from a step up in trip. The problem being, of course, that Hong Kong does not race beyond a mile and a half, and, even then, there are only three races at that distance during the entire season.
“We’re rolling the dice on distance but I’m certain if he was trained in Europe he’d have got to this distance (two miles) before,” Gibson said of the horse that won the King George V Handicap (2400m) at Royal Ascot as a three-year-old when named Primitivo.
“Ryan (Moore) rode him last time in Hong Kong and we were very pleased with the run. He’s just crying out for a longer trip and we have to give it a go.”
Gold Mount will step up to two miles for the first time in Dubai, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club
Wishful Thinker is one of the season’s success stories, having won four of his last five starts. The five-year-old was rated 92 when the campaign began and climbed to 117 with an easy defeat of three smart rivals in a 1200m Class 1 last time out.
“It’s exciting to have a horse at this age who is still on the up,” Gibson said. “He came from being a middle-of-the-road handicapper in Australia and he’s become a Group performer in Hong Kong, which is a credit.”
The I Am Invincible gelding’s only Group-race attempt to date came when third in the straight track G3 Bauhinia Sprint Trophy Handicap (1000m) three runs back. Gibson is optimistic about seeing his charge sprint six furlongs in a straight line.
“I’ve always wanted to run the horse 1200 metres straight, I think that’s his best trip, so we’re looking forward to the challenge of running against what looks a very good sprinter in Blue Point,” he said.
“We’ve seen in the past, Hong Kong sprinters have always done very well in Dubai and I would expect that trend to continue. It’s great to fly the flag for Hong Kong. Hong Kong’s done very well there before so hopefully we can continue this trend.”
And if the duo can perform as hoped, the travelling might not end there.
“Both horses have other options abroad if they run well in Dubai, so that’s something else to look forward to,” Gibson added.
Four Hong Kong horses will contest races at Meydan on Saturday, 30 March. The Caspar Fownes-trained Southern Legend will line up in the G1 Dubai Turf (1800m, turf) and the Me Tsui-trained Fight Hero will go in the G1 Dubai Golden Shaheen (1200, dirt).
Hong Kong’s previous victories on the Dubai World Cup card came in 2014 when Amber Sky won the Al Quoz Sprint (1000m, turf) and Sterling City captured the Dubai Golden Shaheen (1200, Tapeta).