All Too Hard gelding Wellington became just the fourth horse to claim back-to-back wins in the G1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize at Sha Tin on Sunday, and according to his trainer Richard Gibson, the 5-year-old can dominate the local scene for a long time.

Wellington became just the fourth horse to triumph in the prestigious sprint race in consecutive years, joining Mr Vitality (Snippets) (1995/96), Silent Witness (El Moxie {USA}) (2004/05) and Lucky Nine (Dubawi {Ire}) (2013/14), while three others – Fairy King Prawn (Danehill {USA}) (1999 and 2001), Sacred Kingdom (Encosta De Lago) (2008 and 2010) and Dim Sum (Kyllachy {GB}) (2009 and 2011) – are also dual Chairman’s Sprint Prize winners.

Wellington has now won 10 races and three Group 1s, for prizemoney totalling HK$40,056,190 (AU$7.1 million).

And while Wellington’s trainer Richard Gibson wouldn’t be drawn on where his star sprinter sits among the jurisdiction’s all-time greats, he did tell TDN AusNZ that his deeds are quite outstanding.

“I’m not really fussed with all that sort of stuff (where he sits), the only thing that’s important is his race record and he’s got a very impressive one,” said Gibson.

“Try and win 10 races in Hong Kong; you need a darn good horse to do that. To win 10 races in Hong Kong is an exceptionally difficult thing to do.

“He is one of the best sprinters in the world. It’s difficult to win these big Group 1 races back-to-back.”


Plenty of upside

Wellington is a 5-year-old and has been to the races just 16 times.

Gibson is adamant he can remain at the top of his game for a long time.

“The owners all the way through have played it well with this horse. He’s had good breaks across his racing career; we didn’t race him too much in his first season,” the Englishman explained.

“We stopped at the right time during his second season, and even last year, he had a long break after winning this race.

“When you have a horse this good, the skill is trying to keep them in top form for as long as you can.

“There’s a very lucrative, excellent sprint program in Hong Kong.”

Gibson was supremely bullish heading into the race, claiming Wellington was absolutely spot on.

In fact, he admitted the race couldn’t come quick enough.

“He ticked every box. It was expected and he delivered,” Gibson said.

“This horse had been ready for three weeks; it was just a joke.

“He was ready to rock up; he’s just in the zone at the moment and it would have taken tempo or track conditions to have beaten him.”

In addition to training star pair Akeed Mofeed (GB) and Giant Treasure (USA) (Mizzen Mast {USA}), Gibson, who moved to Hong Kong in 2011, guided Gold-Fun (Ire) (Le Vie Dei Colori {GB}) to Chairman’s Sprint Prize glory in 2015.

Again, he wasn’t interested in comparing Wellington to Gold-Fun, but he did concede the former ‘is faster’.


Where it all began

Out of Mihiri (More Than Ready {USA}), who won four starts, was Group 3-placed and banked $146,450 in prizemoney, Wellington was bred by Kia Ora, David Paradise and Steve McCann.

Initially passed in at the 2018 Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale, he was eventually bought for $70,000 by Lauriston Thoroughbred Farm, who intended to on-sell him at a Breeze Up Sale.

He had a short preparation with trainer John McArdle at Mornington.

“John and (jockey) Jamie (Mott) both thought he was above average,” Lauriston Thoroughbred Farm’s, James O’Brien, told TDN AusNZ.

“We gave him the one trial on the synthetic and he won quite easily. Jeff Gordon, a bloodstock agent, somehow spotted the jump-out and made an offer.

“I was a little bit reluctant to sell, but when the offer is like that based on a jump-out, you take those opportunities when they arise.

“It’s nice to be a part of the story and it’s great to see what he is doing in Hong Kong.”


Little sister looks the goods

Mihiri’s grandam, Solo De Lune (Ire) (Law Society {USA}), has thrown two Group 1 winners, Cerulean Sky (Ire) (Darshaan {GB}) and Moonstone (GB) (Dalakhani {Ire}). Cerulean Sky has produced G2 Doncaster Cup hero Honolulu (Ire) (Montjeu {Ire}), while Moonstone is the dam of Nevis (Ire) (Dansili {GB}), who won the Listed Bendigo Golden Mile in 2018.

After missing to Deep Field, Mihiri gave birth to a filly by All Too Hard last spring, and, according to Shane Wright, Kia Ora Stud’s Bloodstock and Breeding Manager, she is a lovely type.

“The cross seems to be working really, really well,” Wright told TDN AusNZ.

“We’ve got the full sister to Wellington here at the farm and she’s a top filly, we’re very happy with how she is.

“At this stage, the plan is to retain her. You can’t buy fillies that are full sisters to international superstars, which she is, so we’re definitely keeping her.

“We’ll be retaining her to race and we’ll look at a breeding program with her down the track.”

Wright was effusive in his praise of Wellington and said the gelding has provided the Kia Ora Stud team a huge thrill.

“The last year has been huge for Wellington; his performances have been very, very special to watch and we couldn’t be happier with him,” he explained.

Wellington has a brother, Hardness, a 4-year-old trained by Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott. The gelding has had two starts for two placings. Bred by Kia Ora Stud and offered by Bhima Thoroughbreds, he was bought by Blueblood Thoroughbreds for $55,000 at the 2019 Inglis Classic Sale.

Mihiri is also the dam of Turnstar, a colt by Star Turn, who was bred and offered by Kia Ora Stud at the 2020 Inglis Easter Yearling Sale Round 2 and purchased by Hawkes Racing for $50,000. He was later bought by Darwin-based trainer Phil Cole at the 2021 Inglis November (Late) Online Sale for $27,500. Turnstar has had 13 starts for two wins and four minor placings.


Hope for half-sister

A year later, Mihiri produced a filly by Star Witness. Bred by Kia Ora Stud with Steve McCann and David Paradise, she was offered by Bhima Thoroughbreds at the 2021 Inglis Classic Yearling Sale, where she was sold to Tricolours Racing for $85,000. She has been named Rotorua and the unraced 2-year-old is in the care of Mark Newnham at Randwick.

“She’s had a couple of small preparations, she went shin sore at her last prep, but she showed considerable talent. Mark (Newnham) was really happy with her,” James Moss, Director at Tricolours Racing, told TDN AusNZ.

“She’s currently in her second week of pre-training out at Hanover Lodge, and she goes super, she’s a really nice filly.

“She’s probably the type of filly that was never going to be super early; we never wanted to rush her. It was a fantastic performance by Wellington.

“When I bought the filly, he’d won a couple of races over there, but he certainly hadn’t gone onto stakes grade. It was quite exciting to follow him through.

“To come out and win the Chairman’s Sprint two years in a row; he’d have to be odds-on to be the Champion Sprinter in Hong Kong this year; he was unlucky to miss the award last year.

“Having a half-sister to a champion reads very well on paper and hopefully she’s got half as much talent.”

Wellington is one of four Group 1 winners for All Too Hard (Forbidden LoveBehemoth and Hard Too Think are the others), who will once again stand at Vinery Stud this upcoming season at a fee of $38,500 (inc GST).


Story courtesy of TDN AusNZ / Cover image courtesy of the Hong Kong Jockey Club