Alexis Badel weighs up tactical change in bid for back-to-back Hong Kong Derby upsets

South China Morning Post
Alexis Badel weighs up tactical change in bid for back-to-back Hong Kong Derby upsets

Patient tactics paid off for Alexis Badel in last year’s BMW Hong Kong Derby (2,000m) and the French jockey could pull the same move in Sunday’s edition when he rides consistent galloper Beauty Crescent.

In the biggest Derby upset in more than two decades, the French jockey guided Voyage Bubble to a stunning victory at the massive odds of $46.

Ricky Yiu Poon-fai’s Voyage Bubble was a renowned front-runner, leading all the way in the Classic Mile and setting the pace before fading to sixth in the Classic Cup (1,800m).

However, Badel took him back to last from barrier 14 in the Derby before making his move at the 1,300m en route to a thrilling win.

“It was a great surprise last year, so I’m looking forward to riding in this big race again,” Badel said. “We’ll see what happens.”

While Beauty Crescent doesn’t share the same front-running traits as Voyage Bubble did at the same time of their careers, he was sent forward from gate 14 to eventually take the lead for Badel in the Classic Cup.

The Tony Cruz-trained gelding yielded the lead to Chancheng Glory approaching the 200m, but he fought on solidly to run fifth, beaten three and a half lengths.

“His last run was good – no blinkers, drawn wide, distance wise it was very difficult, so it was a pretty good effort,” Badel said. “I had to lead the race. I just tried my luck.”

Badel forecast a more patient ride on Beauty Crescent in his first test at the Derby distance.

“I think it’s fair to say that the distance is a big question mark,” Badel said. “Quality wise, he seems to be all right.

“Honestly I don’t think the [barrier] draw will be that important because if you want him to see out the distance, you want him to switch off.

“Either way, I’m expecting to ride a quiet race, as far as I’m concerned. But of course, the trainer will indicate what he wants to do.

“In the back of my mind, if he wants to stay the trip he’ll have to be switched off.”

Before chasing another Derby triumph, Badel has six rides at Happy Valley on Wednesday night with last-start winner Little Fairy looming as his best chance.

The Yiu-trained Little Fairy tackles the second section of the Class Four Percival Handicap (1,650m) after winning at Sha Tin on February 25 under James McDonald.

“I think Little Fairy’s probably one of my best chances on Wednesday,” Badel said.

“I think the draw’s pretty good and his form’s pretty good, so I think he’s a solid contender.

“Eighteen Palms won two races ago, so he’s gone up in rating, but he’s a very fit horse at the moment. He can run an honest race, for sure.”