Trainer Richard Gibson has high hopes that Gold Mount can deliver an overdue Group One triumph in Hong Kong’s biggest race of all, the HK$28 million Hong Kong Cup (2000m), at Sha Tin Racecourse this Sunday. The man with three previous victories at the Hong Kong International Races caused a raised eyebrow or two when the 5yo turned up in the Cup field rather than the 2400m Hong Kong Vase. But he believes the shorter race is the right target. “It was a tight call between the two races,” he said. “I don›t think there’s much in it and I think we’ve chosen an easier race.” Gold Mount wears the yellow with red spots silks of owner Pan Sutong, a mainstay of the Gibson stable during his first years in Hong Kong.
The pair enjoyed major wins with the top class sprinter and miler Gold-Fun, and, most notably, with Akeed Mofeed, winner of the Hong Kong Derby and the Hong Kong Cup itself in 2013. But the Gibson-Pan partnership melted away two years ago when the owner opted to send his horses to Tony Cruz and John Moore’s stables. Gold Mount, named Primitivo when winning the King George V Handicap (2400m) at Royal Ascot for trainer Alan King, was sent to Cruz. That was a tough blow to the man who had identified the little bay as an ideal type for Hong Kong. “I bought this horse myself, so I was disappointed, at the time, not to have trained him. It’s nice getting a second opportunity now,” Gibson said. “You take it all with a pinch of salt,” he added.
Gold Mount has raced 15 times in Hong Kong for three wins but has never scored above Class 1. And yet, the Excellent Art gelding is one of the best stayers on the Sha Tin block, making the Group One frame when second in the QEII Cup (2000m) and third in the Champions & Chater Cup (2400m) last spring, both times behind Pakistan Star. Those placed efforts, as well as a fifth in last year’s Group 1 Hong Kong Vase were achieved in Gold Mount’s trademark style: dropped out at the back, outpaced when the tempo was raised, stayed on to make late headway. Gibson is looking to find a new edge. During a workout last week, Gold Mount wore blinkers for the first time when big race partner Oisin Murphy worked him along the turf track’s backstretch.
“He just did straightforward 1000 metre work with blinkers and Oisin Murphy experienced a feel of him,” the handler said. “I just think it’s a time in his career to roll the dice with him and if you’re going to do it you may as well do it in the big one. He’s been a very consistent performer and I think a blanket covers all the Hong Kong runners, so we’ll just bring a bit of x-factor with the blinkers and let’s hope it works on the big day.” Murphy was pleased with his first sit on Gold Mount and was positive about the headgear. “They’ll only be a help,” the Irish ace said. “He’s an ‘old ish’ horse now and he goes round here pretty well. He jumped this morning from the gate and seemed to face the blinkers well; it was easy work. “He’s a fresh horse and he moved very well.
He’s had two prep runs, and genuinely, they were prep runs. I suppose it’s a very wide open race so hopefully he can run well.” Gibson, clearly, is back in favour with Pan, the Chinese billionaire who owns Goldin Farms, formerly Lindsay Park, in Australia. “This year’s event is a wide open race and I don’t think we’ll get the fast times that they’ve been running earlier in the season; I think it’ll be a more traditionally run 2000 metre race, which will suit him,” Gibson said. It is only natural to think that there would there be an extra burnish to the victory if the horse that at first slipped by were to come out on top at the weekend. “Yes, I think I’d be pretty chuffed,” Gibson said. Gold Mount is expected to run against a tough field with Dierdre, third behind Benbatl in the Group 1 Dubai Turf last year at Meydan, and Werther strong prospects as well.
Dierdre recently cantered for a lap and half on the all-weather track and work rider Yuta Komiyama feels the Japanese raider is acclimatising well. “Everything is under control at the moment,” he said. Werther’s trainer John Moore added: “He’s had two runs going in and I am happy with his progress. “He has to be right in consideration for winning this but he is maturing into the veteran stage and we have to remember that.”