Brett Prebble and Lucky Bubbles parade before the Sprinters Stakes.

Lucky Bubbles heads out for the Sprinters Stakes at Nakayama.

Lucky Bubbles’ attempt to win the G1 Sprinters Stakes (1200m) ended before the field turned for home on a wet and dismal afternoon at Nakayama Racecourse, Sunday, 30 September. Hong Kong’s raider sustained an injury low down in his near fore leg.

Jockey Brett Prebble eased the chestnut to a stop beneath the stands’ side rail, a short way into the straight. No sooner had the rider jumped off than ground staff arrived to assist; by the time Prebble had removed the saddle, a vet was on the scene; Lucky Bubbles walked onto the equine ambulance. A suspensory ligament tear was later identified.

“He broke down. I was following the winner and he was going to have every conceivable chance. Something went pop, which wasn’t a nice thing to hear,” the rider said as he trudged to the weighing room.

With the dream of a second G1 win over, trainer Francis Lui’s concern turned solely to the well-being of his stable star. Lucky Bubbles had proven to be among the best speedsters in Asia, if not the world, when successful in the G1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize (1200m) at Sha Tin in May, 2017.

Lui remained close to the Sebring seven-year-old while vets attended him at the racecourse hospital.

“Lucky Bubbles will recover but the vets said that he will not be able to race again. He’ll stay here for 10 days and the vets will assess how he is before he returns to Hong Kong,” Lui said.

Needle’s sweep

Lucky Bubbles was tracking race favourite Fine Needle when misfortune struck. The Godolphin horse powered wide up the Nakayama hill to land the prize by a neck under Yuga Kawada; the three-year-old filly Love Kampf was second, a half-length ahead of Rhein Spirit.

Godolphin's Fine Needle walks out for the Sprinters Stakes.

Fine Needle goes out for the 2018 Sprinters Stakes at Nakayama.

Fine Needle completed a sweep of Japan’s two G1 sprint contests. This win followed his March success in the G1 Takamatsunomiya Kinen (1200m), and back-to-back triumphs in the G2 Centaur Stakes (1200m).

The Admire Moon five-year-old was fourth in the G1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize in April and could yet return to Sha Tin in December for the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (1200m).

“I will talk with the owners about future plans,” trainer Yoshitada Takahashi said. “Hong Kong could be an option and I hope to show an even more powerful horse to Hong Kong if we do go.

“He was 12th in the Sprinters Stakes last year and he came out of the winter spell a different horse, much bolder to the eye; he has improved considerably through this season.”

Fine Needle is the first horse since the great Lord Kanaloa in 2013 to win the Sprinters Stakes and Takamatsunomiya Kinen in the same year; the latter also won the LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint in 2012 and 2013.