Alexis Badel’s week started with him losing the ride on Wellington in the coming Longines Group One Hong Kong Sprint (1,200m), reached its halfway point with him back aboard the defending champion and finished with him riding a double at Sha Tin.
Badel, who thought Ryan Moore – not for the first time – had taken his place on Wellington in a top-level dash before it transpired he would retain the ride aboard the Jamie Richards-trained speedster in next weekend’s HK$26 million event, steered Ping Hai Galaxy and Summit Cheers to Sunday successes.
John Size’s Ping Hai Galaxy won the trophy race on the last Sha Tin programme before the Hong Kong International Races (HKIR) marquee meeting, the Class Two Peninsula Golden Jubilee Challenge Cup (1,200m) on the all-weather circuit, and David Hall’s Summit Cheers was victorious in the Class Three Mody Handicap (1,000m) on the turf track.
Ping Hai Galaxy, racing on the dirt for the first time since his previous win 11 months ago, was the second longest-priced Peninsula Golden Jubilee Challenge Cup starter. However, the $25.25 outsider led all the way to beat Hall-conditioned swooper Flying Ace by a rapidly diminishing margin, which was a short head when they flashed past the post.
“He’s a good horse ridden this way,” Badel said of Ping Hai Galaxy. “He’s very comfortable with the fence. He won the jump, and he was travelling very easily. I could have gone quicker if I’d wanted, but I was trying to cruise. He was very brave.
“I was a bit confident based on his trial. I knew he was a quality horse, and his previous race performance [when he was ninth, beaten 12 lengths, after settling in midfield] didn’t reflect his quality.”
Ping Hai Galaxy was the first leg of a double for not only Badel but also Size, with the champion trainer saddling Pins Prince to win the card-closing Class Three Salisbury Handicap (1,400m).
Badel adopted different tactics when he partnered Summit Cheers in the Mody Handicap, and they rewarded him with another narrow victory, the Hall-prepared sprinter surging from ninth at the top of the home straight to defeat Flying High by a neck as the contest’s $8.5 third favourite.
“He’s a horse who requires a bit of patience because he’s got a turn of foot, but it’s very short,” Badel said of Summit Cheers. “He can quicken, but you need to get the timing right.”
Tony Cruz has booked Badel to ride Champion Dragon in the Group One Hong Kong Cup (2,000m) and Five G Patch in the Group One Hong Kong Vase (2,400m), but it is Richards’ Wellington who represents the French jockey’s best chance of breaking his HKIR duck next weekend.
Injuries sustained in a nasty November 2022 fall prevented Badel from partnering Wellington in last year’s Hong Kong Sprint, which the then Richard Gibson-trained galloper won under Moore. Badel regained the ride for Wellington’s next start in the Group One Centenary Sprint Cup (1,200m), but he was a spectator when Moore was in Hong Kong on Derby Day, and Gibson engaged his fellow Briton in the Group One Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup (1,400m).
Speaking about those events and others in the recent past, Badel – who almost lost the Wellington assignment and has lost the ride on Derby hero Voyage Bubble – was a consummate professional.
“I’ve gone through a lot worse. You get used to it. It’s the Hong Kong style, and if you can’t toughen up, you don’t belong to this place,” Badel said.
“It’s racing. If you never ride the good horses, it never happens to you. If it happens to you, it’s a good sign. It means you’re participating.”