Bubble Gift hits the Dunaden trail for Delzangles and Lemaire

Bubble Gift following in a familiar path. Photo: HKJC
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By Scott Burton, for HKJC

Always one of the most internationally-minded of France’s training elite, Mikel Delzangles has been selective with his visits to the LONGINES Hong Kong International Races.

In a sequence stretching back to Royal Ascot winner Chineur in 2005, multiple stakes-winner Bubble Gift will be his sixth starter at Sha Tin’s premier fixture.

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He carries a high level of European form and appears well-suited to the demands of the HK$22 million G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Vase (2400m), a race won by French-trained horses on ten previous occasions.

And the four-year-old entire son of Nathaniel is conditioned by the man who brought Dunaden to Hong Kong in three consecutive years, with the highlight coming courtesy of a stunning late burst to secure victory under Craig Williams in 2011.

Speaking to him as he watches second lot go by at his Chantilly base before boarding the plane to Hong Kong, it is clear Delzangles thought plenty about what it takes to succeed here before nominating Bubble Gift, his first HKIR contender since Ming Dynasty narrowly missed out on a podium finish in the 2015 LONGINES Hong Kong Vase.

“You can’t turn up to this meeting with just any horse,” says Delzangles. “Bubble Gift ticks most of the boxes to do well here; this is his trip and he goes on any ground – he was a good third in the (G1, 2400) Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud on quick ground behind Alpinista – so there is no reason not to try. Plus, he has a decent turn of foot.”

Although Bubble Gift has not won a race since the G2 Prix Niel (2400m) last September, he had been a model of consistency up until his no-show in the G1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (2400m) on his most recent start.

Mikel Delzangles bids for more LONGINES HKIR glory.
Mikel Delzangles bids for more LONGINES HKIR glory.

There should be no condemning him for not producing his best given the torrential rain which added to an already sodden track at Longchamp in the 15 minutes before the gates opened.

“We were obviously disappointed with the way things turned out in the Arc,” says Delzangles. “It was truly horrible ground so you have to forget that run. He’s come out of the race well and in the mornings, he’s been as good as ever.

“The Vase has a very even look to it and while he won’t be favourite, he’s up there with those that have a chance.”

Bubble Gift races in the colours of the Zak Bloodstock, formerly steered by Zakaria Hakam and now in the care of his widow, Mouna Bengeloun.

And in addition to his excellent run at Saint-Cloud at the beginning of July, his 2022 campaign has been bolstered by runner-up efforts behind Mare Australis in the G2 Grand Prix de Chantilly (2400m) and Iresine in the G2 Prix Foy (2400m).

Delzangles says: “We always liked him as a youngster, knowing that he was likely to be more of a 2400 metre horse than one for 1600 metres. We took our time with him and he was never very precocious.

“But he’s well put together and I always knew he had a touch of class.”

The first phase of Bubble Gift’s preparation in Hong Kong has been overseen by travelling head lad Aymeric Candas – who became something of a social media celebrity when celebrating Mangoustine’s victory in this season’s G1 Poule d’Essai de Pouliches (1600m) with a forward roll in front of the Longchamp stands – and another key lieutenant in head lad Valerian Idier, who has ridden each canter at Sha Tin this week and will also be aboard for Wednesday’s turf breeze.

Delzangles is due in town on Wednesday (7 December) to see for himself how Bubble Gift has adapted to Sha Tin and has been pleased with what he has heard from Candas and Idier.

“He is a horse who can be a little bit nervous when you change his routine and I think, given the major change in environment, he’s handled it all pretty well,” says Delzangles. “If you see him behaving a little bit excitably then that’s completely normal for him; he can be a lot worse than that.”

The final piece of the jigsaw will be Christophe Lemaire, who flies in from Japan to take the ride on Sunday and who was no stranger to big race success for Delzangles when based in France, having won the G1 2,000 Guineas (1600m) and G1 Prix Jacques le Marois (1600m) on Makfi and a Breeders’ Cup/Poule d’Essai des Pouliches double with Flotilla.

Globetrotting warrior Dunaden strikes.
Globetrotting warrior Dunaden strikes.

In between those two champions the flag was flown around the globe for the Delzangles team by Dunaden and in 2011 the son of Nicobar pulled off the remarkable achievement of backing up victory in the G1 Melbourne Cup (3200m) with success in the LONGINES Hong Kong Vase.

An extremely classy stayer over 3200 metres, Dunaden showed his versatility as well as his toughness when coming from well back in the field to outsprint Thumbs Up, Red Cadeaux and Silver Pond.

“I swear we weren’t expecting him to win but as it was on the way home so we decided to take our chance,” recalls Delzangles. “He seemed not to have had too hard a time in winning the Melbourne Cup but even so, there are not many horses that could do that.

“We didn’t do anything special in between, just kept to his routine. It was a case of not tiring him out while making sure he didn’t fall asleep. But he was such an easy horse to do anything with.”

Dunaden was campaigned as a top-class mile and a half horse in 2012 and was repaid with excellent placed efforts in European Group 1s before landing the G1 Caulfield Cup (2400m) – a race for which Delzangles made a 24-hour flying visit to Australia for his final trackwork – before rounding off with a commendable fifth in Hong Kong.

And even better was to follow in 2013, with the now-seven-year-old running Dominant and The Fugue to three quarters of a length.

“He ran brilliantly that year and you have to remember that, in between Melbourne and Hong Kong, he had run fifth in the Japan Cup (G1, 2400m),” says Delzangles with evident pride.

“A horse like Dunaden doesn’t come along every day. He was an incredibly brave horse who took his racing so well, and who loved travelling. I hope Bubble Gift can have that sort of career though of course we’re not there yet.”

Those may be huge hoofprints to follow in but Delzangles has proved adept at finding the right candidates for his foreign raids and in Bubble Gift, he looks to have found another horse to go several times around the globe.

iRace
Author: iRace