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Alexis Badel reunites with Wellington: ‘he’s by far the best sprinter I’ve ever ridden’

Gallopers like Cirrus Des Aigles, Nonza and Donjuan Triumphant spring to mind for Alexis Badel when he thinks about the best horses he has ever ridden, but the Frenchman has no doubt the best sprinter he has sat on is the one he will partner in Sunday’s Group One Centenary Sprint Cup (1,200m) at Sha Tin.

Back from the shoulder and ankle injuries that saw him miss Wellington’s win in December’s Group One Hong Kong Sprint (1,200m), Badel reunites with the galloper he already has three top-level wins aboard for a race in which the pair look every chance of winning a fourth.

“I’ve ridden a lot of very good milers, middle-distance horses and stayers as well, but quality wise, he’s by far the best sprinter I’ve ever ridden, that’s for sure,” Badel said of Richard Gibson’s speedster.

Wellington is chasing a fifth Group One victory overall and bids to complete his set of Hong Kong’s feature sprints in an eight-horse contest where his biggest stumbling block is four-year-old Lucky Sweynesse.

Wellington will jump from gate five in race that looks likely to be led by Sight Success, while Zac Purton will have to negotiate gate eight aboard Lucky Sweynesse.

“I’m very happy to be back on board, and it’s an interesting race. I assume I’ll be very handy, and I think from the wide gate Lucky Sweynesse will look to improve his position, even if he has a slow start,” Badel said.

“I think it’s a good gate for Lucky Sweynesse – it gives him an opportunity to see what the pace looks like – and I’m very happy with where I’m drawn.

“Wellington looks extremely relaxed, he’s saved his energy for race day and we know what he’s capable of – there’s no question about that. He’s proven to be the top sprinter in Hong Kong, and if he does what he does best, he’s a fantastic horse.”

Badel also teams up with Gibson in the Class Three Wu King Handicap (1,600m), with improving galloper Happy Together edging closer to his first Hong Kong victory after finishing strongly for second behind Classic Mile winner Voyage Bubble three weeks ago.

“I think he’s a nice, progressive horse, and he certainly has a lot to offer in Hong Kong,” Badel said.

“Last time was just unfortunate – they went too slow. He’s a European horse and they’re not the type of horses you want to be aggressive on early, so I was trapped behind a very slow pace. Everyone was moving out at the turn, so I tried to save as much ground as possible.

“He was very unfortunate not to win that race. I think, with a normal tempo, he would have won and he’s really improving, so with a little bit of luck, he should do really well this weekend.”

Also among Badel’s seven-strong book is the Douglas Whyte-trained Show Respect, who will carry Zhang Yuesheng’s well-known green and white Yulong colours.

Zhang, along with South African Mary Slack, is part of a Jockey Club initiative allowing in select international owners in a bid to strengthen the global standing of Hong Kong racing.

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