Gold-Fun takes on defending champ Peniaphobia in Jockey Club Sprint

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November 20th, 2015

Following the Jockey Club Cup (G2) and Jockey Club Mile (G2) on Sha Tin’s Saturday card, the Jockey Club Sprint (G2) serves up a clash between ex-miler Gold-Fun and reigning titleholder Peniaphobia. But the course-and-distance prep for the December 13 Hong Kong Sprint (G1) is more than a two-horse race, with the smart Not Listenin’tome and old hand Lucky Nine among others in the hunt.

Gold-Fun was once a champion miler on this circuit, as exemplified by victories in the 2013 Hong Kong Classic Mile and Jockey Club Mile and runner-up efforts in the past two editions of the Hong Kong Mile (G1). But after Able Friend’s arrival on the mile scene, and trainer Richard Gibson’s intuition that he’d be effective going shorter, Gold-Fun has reinvented himself as a sprinter. Victorious in the Chairman’s Sprint Prize over this course and about six-furlong trip in February (pictured above), the chestnut gelding edged the brilliant Aerovelocity, Lucky Nine and Peniaphobia. Gold-Fun ran into Able Friend again in the about seven-furlong Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup (G1), in which he finished third as the defending champion, and endured a tough passage when caught by perfect-trip stablemate Dundonnell in the April 26 Sprint Cup (G2).

Reappearing from a six-month layoff in the October 25 Premier Bowl (G2), Gold-Fun must have felt haunted by the specter of Able Friend, but he beat everyone else – notably Peniaphobia (third), Charles the Great (fourth), Lucky Nine (fifth), Notlistenin’tome (sixth), Smart Volatility (seventh), Dundonnell (eighth), and Golden Harvest (ninth). On a strict formline through that race, Gold-Fun would loom large here with new rider Christophe Soumillon.

Peniaphobia promised to be the next big thing about this time last year. After defying the dreadful post 14 to defeat older horses in this race, the Tony Cruz pupil nearly defied the stat against three-year-olds in the Hong Kong Sprint when coming up a neck short of Aerovelocity. Although the Dandy Man gelding went on to land the Centenary Sprint Cup and take second to Sole Power in the Al Quoz Sprint (G1) on Dubai World Cup night, he’s apparently hit a plateau in the interim. Peniaphobia will need to resume his progress to overtake Gold-Fun, especially from the far outside post 11.

Two other winners of this race seek to regain their crowns – 2012 hero Lucky Nine, a two-time former champion Hong Kong sprinter who may be in the twilight of his career, and Charles the Great (2013), who doesn’t have nearly the cache of his exciting stablemate Not Listenin’tome.

Lucky Nine has compiled a laudable resume over the years, highlighted by international Group 1 victories in the 2011 Hong Kong Sprint (G1) and the 2013-14 editions of the KrisFlyer International Sprint (G1) at Kranji. But the eight-year-old hasn’t won in a year and a half, and Father Time might be catching up. Fittingly, trainer Caspar Fownes has a fresh face in I’m in Charge, winner of his past two in Class 1 events over this track and trip. Two starts back on July 1, he defeated Smart Volatility with the help of a 10-pound pull at the weights. Smart Volatility is a place chance, having finished second here last year.

Not Listenin’tome has the profile of a rising force in the division for John Moore. During his Australian career, the Dylan Thomas gelding finished second to highly-touted Zoustar in the 2013 Coolmore Stud (G1) at Flemington and to Appearance in the 2014 Canterbury (G1) at Randwick. Not Listenin’tome has long been destined for Hong Kong’s International Races, an idea that he furthered since transferring his base of operations. In only his third local start, he downed Charles the Great in the May 31 Sha Tin Vase (admittedly receiving 13 pounds). Not Listenin’tome opened his fall campaign with another slashing success in the October 1 National Day Cup, again favorably treated at the weights. Moore is adamant that he had excuses when sixth behind Able Friend last time. Not Listenin’tome has a better post this time (6 compared to 10), and it would be no surprise if he jumps up here.

Tony Millard has a trio of contenders, led by Super Jockey. Although perhaps better identified with his dirt prowess, thanks to his nearly upsetting Secret Circle in the March 28 Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1), the New Zealand-bred is not a slouch on turf. Super Jockey went down narrowly to Aerovelocity in last fall’s Premier Bowl, and in his first start back from Dubai, he chased Not Listenin’tome home in the National Day Cup.

Millard’s other hopes are blueblood Strathmore, a son of Fastnet Rock and Group 1 star Egyptian Raine who warrants a class hike, and Golden Harvest, fourth in this race a year ago.

Top: Gold-Fun dethrones Lucky Nine (no. 4) and leaves Peniaphobia in fourth in Chairman's Sprint Prize; right: Not Listenin'tome. Photos courtesy Hong Kong Jockey Club.