By Andrew Hawkins
Sprinter Lucky Bubbles has risen to the summit of Hong Kong’s pecking order, at least as far as ratings are concerned – on 128, he shares top billing with fellow sprinters Aerovelocity, Amazing Kids and Peniaphobia. However, the one missing element on his record is a G1 victory, and trainer Francis Lui believes his title defence in Sunday’s (9 April) G2 Sprint Cup (1200m) is a crucial stepping stone to achieving that elusive feat in next month’s G1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize (1200m).
“He has run really well twice in G1s but has not won,” Lui said this morning (Wednesday, 5 April) after his stable star completed a breeze of the small Sha Tin all-weather track under Brett Prebble. “Those two runs, perhaps on other days they would have won the big race but it was not to be. But I am looking towards the big races coming up, I’m sure that he can win one soon.”
Lucky Bubbles came close to breaking his G1 maiden in the Chairman’s Sprint Prize last year, only to be run down by Australia’s grey flash Chautauqua. That effort followed a win in this race 12 months ago, when he raced away for a two-length victory over John Size-trained Amazing Kids.
“Last year, when he ran in this race, it was very different,” he said. “He had not proven that he was a top sprinter. Now, he is but because he hasn’t won a G1, he carries the same weight as the others. If it is a straightforward race, then he should be hard to beat.”
The Sebring gelding has had somewhat of a frustrating season, winning the G2 Premier Bowl Handicap (1200m) before three runner-up finishes in the G2 Jockey Club Sprint (1200m), G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) and G2 Centenary Sprint Cup (1200m). The G1 effort, behind Aerovelocity at December’s showpiece meeting, was arguably his best run yet as he faced trouble in the run, yet still ran Paul O’Sullivan’s evergreen speedster to a short head.
He was invited to the G1 Al Quoz Sprint (1200m) in Dubai, but connections opted to miss the race, instead giving the horse a freshen-up following his last start in January. The five-year-old has had two trials since under regular rider Prebble, finishing first past the post over the straight 1000m on 14 March before finishing in a bunch alongside Sunday’s rivals Thewizardofoz, Peniaphobia and Blizzard in a 1200m dirt hit-out on 28 March.
“He is well, I am glad he did not travel,” said Lui. “Hopefully we can travel later in the year or even next year, but for now, it was better to give him an easier time and focus on his big goal, the G1 in May.
“He has trialled well but he’s not quite there yet, we want him peaking next month. Still, I hope he runs well on Sunday, he has been good fresh before and this run should get him fit for the big race.”
After his most recent trial on Tuesday, 28 March, Prebble expressed his satisfaction with Lucky Bubbles heading into Sunday’s sprint.
“He bounced sharp and got into his stride. I didn’t give him any pressure at all,” said Prebble. “I let the two leaders go and just had him ticking over. It was nice, there was no stress. He’ll just go whatever speed you ask of him, he’s really kind. I’m very happy with him.”
Size-trained pair Mr Stunning and Sun Jewellery, John Moore's Dashing Fellow and Bad Boy, and Lucky Year for Danny Shum complete the nine entries for the G2 Sprint Cup. The race is one of two G2 lead-ups on Sunday for Hong Kong’s three spring features, the other being the G2 Chairman’s Trophy (1600m), featuring Horse of the Year Werther and BMW Hong Kong Derby winner Rapper Dragon.
Lucky Bubbles won the Sprint Cup in impressive fashion last year.