Gold-Fun throws down gauntlet in Jockey Club Sprint
Gold-Fun drove to a convincing success over Peniaphobia in Saturday’s Jockey Club Sprint (G2) at Sha Tin, solidifying his status as the leading local contender for the December 13 Hong Kong Sprint (G1).
And the invading contingent for International Day may have been served notice, for the form has a solid look. Gold-Fun was previously Hong Kong’s champion miler, and runner-up in the past two runnings of the Hong Kong Mile (G1), before turning his attention to the sprint game. He defeated several of these rivals in the Chairman’s Sprint Prize (G1) at this track and trip in February. Last time out in his reappearance, his first start back from surgery, he was second to Able Friend in the October 25 Premier Bowl (G2).
Peniaphobia, the winner of this race in 2014 and near-misser in the Hong Kong Sprint, was also a close second in the Al Quoz Sprint (G1) on Dubai World Cup night. Gold-Fun has had his number, however. Fourth in the Chairman’s Sprint Prize, and most recently third behind Able Friend and Gold-Fun in the Premier Bowl, Peniaphobia has to find a way to beat his nemesis come International Day. His name means “fear of poverty,” but Peniaphobia may feel more afraid of gold by now.
Yet his fans can take some heart from the way the Jockey Club Sprint unfolded. Bustled along from his far outside post 11, Peniaphobia had to work to grab the early lead in :23.36. He got no breather, facing unrelenting pressure from Super Jockey through a torrid half in :45.17. Meanwhile, Gold-Fun was content to sit back in sixth. Confidently handled by Christophe Soumillon, the Richard Gibson trainee was perched in the slipstream of Not Listenin’tome in the stretch.
Peniaphobia finally shook free of Super Jockey, but Not Listenin’tome loomed to challenge. Gold-Fun was moving ominously well, and after peeling wider out, he punched 1 1/4 lengths clear and completed about six furlongs in 1:08.31. Observers had noted beforehand that Gold-Fun appeared to be carrying extra flesh, tipping the scales at 1274 pounds, but you wouldn't know it by the way he ran.
Not Listenin’tome couldn’t get past a game Peniaphobia, who fought to save second. Since the top two both carried top weight of 128 pounds, spotting Not Listenin’tome five, the third-placer has his work cut out at level weights on International Day.
Former two-time champion sprinter Lucky Nine ran a massive race to close from last for fourth, in a tight finish with Peniaphobia and Not Listenin’tome. The eight-year-old veteran zipped his final 400 meters (about a quarter-mile) in a field-best :22.47.
A sneakier type who bears watching is Strathmore, who also rallied from last in :22.58, despite a tough trip, and checked in a couple of lengths behind Gold-Fun in sixth. A beautifully bred son of Fastnet Rock and Egyptian Raine, the Tony Millard pupil has been nursed along carefully, and could be on the verge of a breakout. Strathmore might be a longshot worth knowing on December 13.
The other Millard runners disappointed, with Golden Harvest found to have bled in his trachea, but no evident excuse (at the moment) for Super Jockey. The trailer, Smart Volatility, bled from both nostrils, according to the racing incident report.
Quotes from Hong Kong Jockey Club
Trainer Richard Gibson on Gold-Fun: “It’s a team effort. Huge credit to the vets here, this horse had surgery last season and it’s a huge credit to get the horse back on track. We were very happy with his first run this year and we knew he would improve on it. It was a masterful ride from Christophe.
“We left as much on Gold-Fun as we could, that weight on him was intentional - we tried to keep as much on him as possible and the big objective is in three weeks’ time.”
Jockey Christophe Soumillon on Gold-Fun: “He won by a good margin and Richard said he was unfit today, so I reckon he will be better next time.
“He didn’t jump fast in the first two strides and then I was trying to get a better position in the beginning but the outside horses went quite fast, so I didn’t have the choice to wait in fourth or fifth position. Then on the turn I was going quite freely and this horse is quite funny, you cannot take the lead too early on him, so it was not easy when I saw the horses in front were five or six lengths ahead of me. I did not want to let them run away so I had to come out and he gave me a very good turn-of-foot. I hit the front too early.
“You can see he was stopping a bit, looking around and hanging right, so I had to try to get him to concentrate at the end.
“Today the track is riding a bit funny, there are not many horses coming from the back. It’s a good effort today and I’m very happy with him. It’s a good sign for three weeks’ time.”
Photo courtesy of Hong Kong Jockey Club.