Hugo Palmer seeks Hong Kong success with Flaming Rib

Neil Morrice

25/04/2023 11:00

Flaming Rib is one of the major contenders in the G1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize.
Flaming Rib is one of the major contenders in the G1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize.

Hugo Palmer’s adventurous overseas campaign with Flaming Rib takes the Manor House Stables trainer to a new horizon when he saddles the four-year-old for the HK$20 million Chairman’s Sprint Prize, one of the highlights on Champions’ Day at Sha Tin on Sunday April 30th.

It will be Palmer’s first visit to Hong Kong and a fleeting one, as he expects to arrive two days ahead of the prestigious Champions meeting, and depart for England straight after the race.

Palmer is the eldest son of the 4th Baron Palmer, whose ancestral seat, Manderston, is in Berwickshire. At the turn of the 20th century the family owned the Reading-based biscuit manufacturers Huntley & Palmers.

Hugo Palmer will saddle his first runner in Hong Kong.
Hugo Palmer will saddle his first runner in Hong Kong.

He looks back at his most rewarding experience before attaining a trainers’ licence in 2011 as the 15 months he spent with Gai Waterhouse in Australia. And once up and running back in England, he wasted little time in putting a domestic Classic on the sideboard, attained when Galileo Gold landed the 2,000 Guineas in 2016.

By invitation he relocated to Owen’s Manor House in Cheshire in March last year, taking with him a number of the team he’d trained in Newmarket.

Flaming Rib missed out on journeying overseas during the 2022 UK season, but has already raced in Qatar and Dubai this year, winning on a turning track at Doha but encountering false ground when unplaced in the Group 1 Al Quoz  Sprint over six furlongs at Meydan, won by Danyah.

Flaming Rib finishes eleventh in the G1 Al Quoz Sprint in Meydan this year.

Palmer explained: “Dubai was a bit of a disappointment. He was 14-1 but as soon as the draw came out he halved in price. Normally from a high draw you have an advantage as they come to the stands side where it is virgin ground and much quicker.

“But on the night the race developed on the far side, and the fact that Oisin Murphy came back with mud all over his face tells its own story. In short, he was drawn on the favoured side, but it turned out that wasn’t the best part of the track to be on.”

Of Flaming Rib’s earlier triumph the trainer added: “Doha was very quick. He loves that while I also feel some of his better performances have been when he encounters a bend like he did in Qatar. So the hope is that on faster ground at Sha Tin he can run more like he did at Doha.”

Flaming Rib enjoyed a bountiful campaign in his own backyard last year when he finished second in the Commonwealth Cup (Group 1) and wasn’t beaten far in the July Cup (Group 1) at Newmarket when poorly drawn.

Flaming Rib finishes second behind Perfect Power in the G1 Commonwealth Cup in Royal Ascot.

Palmer recalls: “He was drawn out on the wing in the July Cup with the race developing ten horse widths to our left, but he wasn’t disgraced. He then came back and finished a good fourth in the Haydock Sprint Cup (Group 1) but disappointed on testing ground at Ascot. We considered going to the Keeneland Breeders’ Cup but decided to pull the plug on season.

“I’m mindful that it’s going to be tough against local champion Lucky Sweynesse and Wellington is a nice horse, but Flaming Rib is good going round a bend and we need to keep our fingers crossed for a favourable draw.”

Flaming Rib is part-owned by former England international forward Michael Owen and Tom Marquand is booked to partner him at Sha Tin.

Unfortunately Owen is unable to join Palmer on the flight, the latter observing: “Michael really wanted to go to Hong Kong but is extremely busy with television commitments. It would have been good if he could.”

Palmer continues: “The horse travelled well to Dubai and Qatar, and while he’s got further to go this time he’s getting used to it.

“The Chairman’s Sprint Prize comes at the start of our season which would be a big ask for a horse having his first run, but we’ve had two races and are in a good place in that respect. Hughie Bowman was going to ride him only for John Size to pull rank and claim him, so we have Tom Marquand, whose agent was on the phone minutes after Hughie said he wasn’t available.”

Neil Morrice

Yorkshireman who cut his teeth on Fleet Street in the early Eighties when part of the Press Association's racing team. Spent 12 years as Lambourn correspondent of the Racing Post from its inauguration in 1986 before going freelance. The ensuing period has seen him concentrate on the international racing spectrum, covering the HKIR of which he is a veteran. His other regular overseas projects include 34 Breeders' Cups, the Dubai Carnival and World Cup, the Prix De l'Arc De Triomphe and Deauville Festival. More recently turned his attention to South Africa where he worked for Tellytrack as its UK Correspondent but since 2019 he’s been linked to Hollywoodbets in Durban, working as its International Correspondent. He regularly attends the major races in SA, including the Queen’s Plate, Met, Durban July Handicap and Summer Cup.

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