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Richard Gibson double-handed as Rattan and Wellington challenge Danon Smash

April 24, 2021, 7:46:38 AM

Richard Gibson admits that defeating Danon Smash in the G1 HK$18 million Chairman's Sprint Prize (1200m) on Sunday (25 April) would be a difficult task, but the Englishman claims Rattan and Wellington are more than capable rivals.

Gibson will send Rattan, a seven-year-old fighter, and Wellington, an untapped four-year-old, up against Danon Smash, who is looking for his third G1 victory after winning the LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint at Sha Tin in December and the Takamatsunomiya Kinen (1200m) on March 28 at Chukyo Racecourse.

“It's fascinating that we have two runners who couldn't be more dissimilar,” Gibson said.

“We have one young horse (Wellington) who is just beginning his Group 1 career, and Rattan, today may be one of his last Group 1 days – so we're going to enjoy it while we can.

“Unfortunately, we had a very unusual training accident with Rattan a couple of months ago, but he's worked very hard to get back in form for this race.

“He's a fantastic horse who still delivers on race day, so I don't pay too much attention to his work.” He really gives his best on race day.”

Rattan is back in action after finishing third behind Danon Smash in the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint on December 13th. The veteran jumps from barrier 12 and will be ridden by Chad Schofield.

Wellington will be partnered by Alexis Badel and will start from gate three, giving Gibson hope that the mercurial talent will improve on a puzzling fifth-place finish to Amazing Star in the G2 Sprint Cup (1200m) at Sha Tin on 5 April.

“You can't mask the disappointment; you have to take those days on the chin,” Gibson said, referring to Wellington's loss as a 2.8 favorite.

“We can spin it as we like, but I came away from the race knowing that everybody learned a little bit more about the rider – the horse, the trainer, and the jockey.

“The horse has to prove himself on the day, he has a better draw, so the morale in the camp is hopefully a little stronger than the previous start.”

“It was a fast turnaround; we only had 20 days.

“At the Group 1 stage, we love everybody. Danon Smash is fantastic; he's been to Hong Kong before and shown he can do it. He'll be a formidable foe to overcome.”

Ricky Yiu will ride Jolly Banner, a nine-year-old Lonhro gelding, in the speed contest, optimistic that a stint at Conghua has revitalized the Lonhro gelding.

“He's been to Conghua, and he adores it there. He's a different horse now, and his trackwork has improved significantly since then.

“We still expect him to run well, and we aren't too concerned about the draw” (11). Within, he has some fast horses painted on him, and the further they go, the better.

“He understands the game.”

Jolly Banner, who will be ridden by Matthew Poon, has yet to win over six furlongs in Hong Kong, but finished a career-best second to Danon Smash over the course and distance in December.

Under Ruan Maia, Yiu will also unleash Voyage Warrior.

“Hopefully, the track isn't too firm for him on Sunday; I'm pleased with the draw, and the jockey is too,” said last season's champion rider. “He'll do well.”

Yiu faces Golden Sixty in the HK$20 million G1 FWD Champions Mile (1600m) in a David and Goliath fight with Mighty Giant.

“I have no concerns. He's got his job. Before evaluating the extent of Antoine Hamelin's task, Yiu said, "Hopefully he'll be in front and doing the same thing as last time."

“We're excited to race against a champion horse like Golden Sixty, but beating him is a huge task.”