There are a million reasons trainer Richard Gibson hopes Navas Two can return to winning ways at Sha Tin on Sunday.
The four-year-old, who runs in the Class Two Beas River Handicap (1,400m), will receive a HK$1 million high achievement bonus if he makes his way into the winner’s enclosure this weekend.
As a private purchase (previously raced galloper) who started his Hong Kong career on a rating of 74 or less, Navas Two is eligible for the bonus if he manages to win at Class Two level before reaching the age of five.
So Hong Kong punters will know that if there is one horse primed to run well this weekend it’s Navas Two, as time is running out for Gibson to grab that all-important win before his runner turns five on August 1.
“He’s ready to run and we’re trying to get this million-dollar bonus,” Gibson said. “We’ve got this race and then we’ve got one more to try to get that money. He’s well otherwise we wouldn’t be running him.
“I’ve really tried to freshen him up for this race, the million-dollar bonus is important and we’ve got two races to try to hit it.”
It seemed almost a foregone conclusion that Navas Two would earn his connections that huge cash windfall after achieving a hat-trick of wins before the end of January to propel him into Class Two company, but a string of poor draws means his window of opportunity is closing fast.
The four-year-old has been forced to break from stalls 12, 14 and 13 in his three starts at this level but has still showed enough ability to suggest he can win in this company after finishing in the first five in all three of those runs.
While he has been blessed with a better barrier draw this time around in gate one, Gibson knows this is far from a penalty kick with Lucky Sweynesse, Good Luck Friend and Lucky With You all realistic dangers.
“I’m old enough and wise enough to know that Hong Kong racing is not easy,” Gibson said. “It will not be a walkover by any means, I think it’s a hot race.”
Gibson has already racked up HK$1.5 million in bonuses with the impressive Cordyceps Six, who followed up his Class Two victory with a win at Group Three level last month to earn another HK$500,000 cash boost.
There are undoubtedly some big days ahead for the exciting youngster but a possible international tilt at Royal Ascot this year was scrapped as a result of race conditions.
“He’s great, terrific and he’s now on holiday,” Gibson said. “I’m a bit rusty on my European qualifications but in January I was plotting a Royal Ascot race in the Commonwealth Cup for him but I naively found out late in the day that he wasn’t qualified as he is a gelding.
“That was a shame as I thought he would have had a good shout in a race like that.”
Gibson is not one for planning too far ahead but has his eye on the 2022-23 season’s biggest races.
“We’ve got a very lucrative four-year-old campaign next season so we’ll obviously guide him towards that,” Gibson said. “You just hope that he would improve with maturity.”