3 minute read
It would be fitting, to say the least, if Wellington were to provide Hong Kong-based New Zealand trainer Jamie Richards with a first major Hong Kong win and success in one of the world’s great sprint races when he tackles Sunday’s (10 December) HK$26 million G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (1200m).
Richards, who transferred to Hong Kong at the beginning of last season, could - had he stayed at home – have been basking this year in the glory of the major sprint race exploits of Imperatriz, which he trained through her first two seasons of racing.
Imperatriz was unbeaten in four races through the recent Melbourne spring carnival; the latter three at Group 1 level, culminating with the G1 Champions Sprint (1200m) at Flemington.
Not to mention, that Richards was also the original trainer of Group 1 T.J. Smith Stakes winner and Everest runner-up I Wish I Win. Remarkably, the two horses were in Richards' care when they quinellaed a Group 3 race in New Zealand in September 2021.
However, the 53 times Group 1-winning trainer is not dwelling on any of this.
"The focus is very much on Hong Kong now. I've enjoyed watching Imperatriz. She's a low flying jet and Mark (Walker) and the Te Akau team have done a wonderful job with her. She's immensely talented and just keeps getting better and better and I did have I Wish I win for a while as well.
"I had my time in the sun before that, at home, and now it's very much channelling all my energy into Hong Kong, consolidating on a good opening season last year and looking forward to Sunday and the rest of the month," said Richards, who prepared notable horses such as Melody Belle, Probabeel, Te Akau Shark, Xtravagant, Gingernuts and Avantage in New Zealand and Australia.
Richards and his fiancee Danielle Johnson are expecting their first child at the end of the month and, this week, will welcome a "few friends" visiting Hong Kong on the eve of Wellington's quest for successive LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint wins.
Last year, Wellington was prepared by Richard Gibson (who's since left Hong Kong) and Richards said he hasn't "reinvented the wheel" in preparing the seven-year-old whose last run was an unsuccessful assault on the G1 Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Stakes (1200m) at Royal Ascot in June.
"He had a break after Ascot and we sent him to Conghua for a change of scenery. He's a bit quirky so we keep things pretty simple with him and he's come back into training in good order.
"My assistant Jones Ma worked with Richard (Gibson) and obviously knows the horse well and we think he's in pretty good shape. He ran well first-up and it's just been a case of maintenance work since then. He had a good stretch on Monday and it's all systems go for Sunday.
"He's probably had to have improved again from the Jockey Club Sprint and he's got Lucky Sweynesse to deal with plus the Japanese and the Europeans so it's no easy task but I'd expect him to run very well," Richards said.
Meanwhile, Richards remains committed to clawing his way up the trainer's ranks.
"I love Hong Kong. It's very competitive and very challenging here. It's not easy to win races here but we'll keep working hard. There's plenty to look forward to this month and for the remainder of the season," he said.