Wellington’s Group One Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Stakes (1,200m) tilt got off to a disastrous start at Royal Ascot on Saturday, and trainer Richard Gibson admits he’s still trying to come to terms with exactly what happened.
With arguably the world’s best jockey, Ryan Moore, on his back, Wellington was one of the leading hopes for the feature race on the final day of the royal meeting, but the four-time Group One winner had barely taken five strides before the dream was all but over.
After Wellington appeared to rear slightly and throw his head back on beginning, Moore
copped a smash in the nose and rode the race with blood streaming down his face.
After doing his best to get Wellington going from near the back of the field, the superstar Englishman admitted it was “just one of those things” following their 10th-placed finish.
Moore pointed to the behaviour of Highfield Princess in the adjacent stall when quizzed about what upset Wellington, but for Gibson, it all remains somewhat a mystery.
“Of course, it was a shame because it was very exciting to be representing Hong Kong, and we had all this support from everyone,” Gibson said.
“Horses make you humble. The horse has had 24 career starts and is one of the best gate jumpers in the world. In Hong Kong, he loads last. He loaded early at Ascot. There was definitely a significant incident in the gates, which I can’t decipher on video yet.
“The horse has got a cut and a bang on his face, so he’s obviously hit the gate as well, and then he went back to hit poor Ryan, who got a terrible blow.”
After spending the week at the idyllic Manton Estate, west of London, Gibson admits Wellington wasn’t himself at a buzzing Ascot ahead of his first overseas assignment.
“It’s very, very different to Hong Kong. When we saddle in Hong Kong, I can check my hairstyle in his coat because it’s shining – it’s a mirror, and he looks great,” Gibson said.
“We take him to Ascot, and he was very difficult to saddle. He was in a full, lathered sweat. It was very new for him.
“Despite him being a hardened gelding, it was all too much for him and he couldn’t put in his usual good Hong Kong performance.”
There was chatter pre-race Wellington might turn his attention to another overseas race before heading back to Hong Kong, but Gibson confirmed that won’t be happening.
“He’s here for a week. He’ll have another week of lovely grass and sunshine, and off he heads home,” Gibson said.
That means the reigning Hong Kong Sprint champion has run his last race for Gibson, who’ll bring the curtain down on his Hong Kong career at the end of this season.
But there’s no reason Wellington can’t continue to be competitive into the fifth season of a career that has netted 12 wins and more than HK$63 million in prize money, with Gibson confirming the new speedster’s owners will reveal his new home in time.
“All those decisions have been taken and I’ll let the owner announce those in his due time. That’s his business and not mine,” Gibson said.
Wellington is one of four Cheng family-owned gallopers in Gibson’s stable who’ll need a new home – The Final Word, Star Club and Quorum are the others – and there are another 17 horses in the outgoing 53-year-old’s yard.
The highest-rated galloper after Wellington is Thesis, who won the Britannia Stakes (1,600m)
at Royal Ascot last year.
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