By Andrew Hawkins
Trainer Richard Gibson believes Jetwings can continue the stable’s recent run of good form in the Class 2 France Galop Cup Handicap (1200m) at Happy Valley on Wednesday night (17 May).
Jetwings (132lb) won his first two starts in Class 3 in early 2015, and while he was winless in four starts later that year, he looked a horse likely to progress through the ranks. However, a tendon injury diagnosed in December 2015 threatened to ground his career.
“The owners have done a fantastic job with him, they deserve a lot of credit,” Gibson said at Sha Tin trackwork on Tuesday morning (16 May). “He had a minor suspensory injury and a couple of issues. We knew we had a good horse, though, so we sent him back to Australia.”
The five-year-old returned to original trainer Gerald Ryan to recuperate and was brought along slowly, even trialling at Rosehill in October last year.
“He came back in November and he has been fairly strong ever since,” Gibson said. “It was a very straightforward process, bringing him back. Then, he had a good first race in February, it was very encouraging over 1000m and then he produced the goods second-up.”
That second-up win came on 15 March, when Douglas Whyte drove the Jet Spur gelding to a three-quarter length victory at 36/1.
“It was a great ride from Douglas,” said the trainer. “He was drawn 12 and it was just a dream ride, as well as a great effort from the horse too.”
Jetwings was meant to run at Happy Valley on 26 April in the race won by Victory Marvel, but he was a pre-race scratching due to a minor foot problem. However, Gibson is confident that those issues are not haunting the horse going into Wednesday’s assignment.
“The horse has got sensitive feet so that meant we couldn’t run him as intended last month,” he said. “It was irritating to miss the run but we’ve got him in good shape for Wednesday, a better draw too, so fingers crossed.”
Gibson had a notably slow start to the season with only four winners in the first six months of the term. However, the tide has turned and the trainer is currently riding a wave of good form, with a winner at each of the last five meetings, taking his tally to 13 for the campaign.
“We just try to focus on doing the best job we can, it is not a story for us,” he said. “Hopefully, the horses continue to perform to their best.”
Every race on Wednesday night is associated with French racing and Gibson, who left his native England to set up a training base at Chantilly in 1996, would be a fitting winner of the night’s feature, which is scheduled to jump at 10:15pm.
Among Jetwings’ rivals are John Moore-trained Sea Jade (132lb), David Hall’s Super Turbo (123lb), Premiere (118lb) for John Size, and the returning Romantic Cash (126lb), who has his first run in 18 months after a stable change from Danny Shum to Gary Ng.
The night’s other trophy race is the Class 3 Le French May Trophy Handicap (1200m), which comes up an hour earlier at 9:15pm as the fifth of eight races.
Teetan reunites with Best Step in curtain call
The meeting closes with the Arc De Triomphe Champions Handicap (1200m), a race that sees Caspar Fownes-trained Best Step make the leap up to Class 3 for the first time.
Best Step won over 1000m at Happy Valley last start with Zac Purton in the saddle, but Karis Teetan returns to the plate on Wednesday night for the first time since the Cecconi gelding ran fourth on debut at Sha Tin.
“He gave me a nice feel when I rode him the first time,” Teetan said. “He was very green and he still ran a very good race. He looks like he has enjoyed the Valley, he has done well there. He’s got a nice draw, which should help him going up in class. He has a light weight though, so it shouldn’t be a big problem. I’m pretty sure he’s going to give us a nice run.”
Teetan says that Best Step has made significant improvement with each start and can use that to his advantage in Class 3.
“When I rode him last, it was his first run and he missed the start, everything was new to him and he didn’t quite know what he was doing,” he said. “He now looks like he knows what he is doing. He will need to take a step forward now he is up in class, but he looks capable.”
Among those opposing Best Step (114lb) are last-start placegetters All Great Friends (123lb) and Travel Datuk (123lb), as well as course and distance winners Wonderful Journey (133lb), Extremely Fun (129lb), Wayfoong Vinnie (124lb), Our Hero (119lb) and Sharp Hunter (118lb).
The Class 3 Arc De Triomphe Champions Handicap (1200m) is due to jump at 10:50pm.
Jetwings storms home under Douglas Whyte to win a Class 2 1200m race at Happy Valley in March.
Best Step opens his Hong Kong account over 1000m at Happy Valley last start.