Good Ba Ba emphatically confirmed his status as the world’s number one older miler at Sha Tin Jan. 23, but even a $5 million purse in Dubai and a $1 million bonus incentive will not tempt trainer Andreas Schutz and owner John Yuen Se-kit to prove it on the world stage.
Good Ba Ba destroyed his opposition in the HK$8 million Citi Stewards’ Cup, making it group I number six for the reigning Horse of the Year and leaving no more domestic questions to answer. He won eased down by 1 3/4 lengths from Fellowship, with Viva Pataca finishing third in this first leg of the Citi Triple Crown for the third year running.
Even a ringing endorsement from jockey Christophe Soumillon -- who earlier in the week had categorically stated that Good Ba Ba would be even better than he’d been on international day -- will be insufficient to sway Schutz and Yuen.
“Entries have closed for the Dubai Duty Free and you will find Good Ba Ba’s name is not there; he’s not even an entry,” Schutz said after receiving the trophies for the 7-year-old’s second successive Stewards’ Cup.
“Mr Yuen and I discussed Dubai and we decided not to enter, so as we would not be tempted if the horse won as easily as he did today. Our agenda is just two more races for the season -- the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup and the Champions Mile.
“Longer term, our goal is to win the (Cathay Pacific) Hong Kong Mile for a third time in December.
“Mr Yuen wants Good Ba Ba to race here, for the enjoyment of the people of Hong Kong. You look at the reception the horse has received today, it’s a great thing for racing; a wonderful thing for sport in Hong Kong.”
Just two weeks ago the handicappers of the world elevated Good Ba Ba to a new level of international recognition, a two-pound lift to a rating of 124 and with that, the tag of champion older miler of the world.
However, turning up to defend his Stewards’ Cup crown and that newly-anointed status so soon after the World Thoroughbred Rankings had been announced was never a worry to Soumillon.
“I told Andreas, I told everyone who would listen that when I rode Good Ba Ba in a gallop on Monday, I knew he had improved,” an elated Soumillon said.
“I can tell you, this horse is one of the best horses I have ridden and definitely the best miler. Because I had Viva Pataca behind me and moving to my outside, I had to go for Good Ba Ba a bit earlier than I wanted.
“He picked them up so quickly and the race was over in a second. But if Viva Pataca had not made me do that, I would have been able to come later and we would have won a group one race without ever letting him off the bridle.”
Good Ba Ba’s career record now moves to 15 wins and six minor placings from 31 starts, though since being trained by Schutz, that scoreline is 10 wins from his last 14 domestic starts. His Stewards’ Cup first prize of HK$4,560,000 took the American-bred gelding’s lifetime earnings to HK$46,491,500.