By David Morgan
Rapper Dragon continued his march towards Group 1 honours with a victory in this afternoon’s G2 Chairman’s Trophy (1600m), a performance that had Joao Moreira proclaiming the four-year-old Hong Kong’s standout.
“Now I’m convinced that he’s the best horse in town,” the champion jockey said after guiding the Street Boss gelding to a fourth straight win. “Obviously, that number one spot was open and there to be taken, and he looked like he was going to be the one.”
John Moore’s latest stable star swept aside his peers in last month’s BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) to become the first horse to complete a sweep of Hong Kong’s three-race Four-Year-Old Classic Series. Back in trip today, the ascendant chestnut impressed against his proven elders with a smart prep for the G1 Champions Mile in four weeks’ time.
“He went through the race beautifully,” Moreira said. “He had lovely cover and I just pulled him out a little bit early because I knew there would be some early moves and I wanted to make sure I gave him a clear run. When I put him into daylight he finished off so strongly – he was really letting down powerfully.”
The 1.6 favourite settled handily behind the pace-setting Contentment, one of six G1 winners in the 10-runner field. When that rival succumbed to pressure 350m out, it was Rapper Dragon that sailed into the clear. The victor wandered around under Moreira’s drive but had the strong-closing Beauty Only’s measure in clocking 1m 33.74s for a half-length success.
The Tony Cruz-trained runner-up, as is his wont, unleashed a race-fastest closing 400m (21.96s to Rapper Dragon’s 22.03s) under Zac Purton but never looked like overhauling the winner, who benefitted from the second having to shoulder a 5lb G1 penalty.
“He was always going to hold the second,” Moreira said. “Unfortunately, I had him snaking around underneath me in the straight – he’s still very immature. I think there’s more improvement to come and now it’s up to Mr. Moore to help him go to that extra level that I believe is there to go for.”
Moore is certain that he has left something to work on ahead of the 7 May Champions Mile.
“There’s further improvement, I think I can get him a little bit fitter,” the trainer said. “I didn’t have him 100 percent today because I didn't really put him to the grind for this and that was intentional.”
And the handler, who saddled Able Friend to win this race en route to Champions Mile glory in 2015, agrees with Moreira’s sentiment that Rapper Dragon is the most likely heir to Able Friend’s crown.
“I’d go along with that, certainly, he’s the best we’ve got in the stable now that Able Friend’s racing career is at an end,” he said. “If he wins the Champions Mile there’d be no doubt at all, he’d probably end up rated 128 or 130.
“I don't know what we’ll do with him after the Champions Mile – I wouldn’t want to bottom him, so that could be it for this season.”
The Danny Shum-trained Circuit Land ran home third, a further two and a quarter lengths away, with Moore’s 2016 Horse of the Year Werther a further head back in fourth. Jockey Sam Clipperton was pleased with the latter’s effort ahead of an attempt at back-to-back wins in the G1 Audemars Piguet QEII Cup (2000m) on 30 April.
“Werther ran really well,” Clipperton said. “They went quite a strong pace and I got chopped out of my run at the 600 (metres). I tried to keep him balanced – I didn't want to be pulling him out of it. It hasn't cost him the win, it’s just he lost a bit of momentum. I was very happy with his effort, he closed to the line strongly and now it’s on to the 2000-metre race.”
Moore’s Helene Paragon, successful in the G1 Stewards’ Cup (1600m) and G1 Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup (1400m) earlier this year, was a lacklustre seventh under Douglas Whyte.
“It was an okay run, he’s come with a run down the outside but then just petered out and maybe he’s come to the end of his preparation,” Whyte said.
Generation edges the stayers
Beauty Generation and Eagle Way fought out a thrilling finish to the Class 2 Jinbao Street Handicap (2200m), with the former edging out his stablemate by a short-head. And, with Helene Charisma – another highly-touted Moore-trained galloper – in fifth, the handler has three candidates for staying honours this spring.
“I was happy with all three of them; we’ll go Queen Mother Memorial Cup (2400m) into the Champions & Chater Cup (2400m) with all of them,” Moore said. “I was watching that hoping it was going to be a dead-heat!”
Moreira made an early move for home on Eagle Way, the 2016 G1 Queensland Derby (2400m) winner, and looked like holding on only for the chestnut to tire close home as Beauty Generation, third in the Derby last time out, left it late to edge the verdict under Purton.
“He’s a thinker, that’s his whole problem.” Purton said of Beauty Generation. “Every race I’ve ridden him in, from the 200 to the winning post, he does the same thing, he doesn’t really attack the line. Today it became more of a staying test and he did what he always does and the other one got tired.”
Moreira landed both of the afternoon’s G2 features as he took the Sprint Cup (1200m) atop John Size’s exciting four-year-old Mr Stunning. The Champion Jockey ended the afternoon with four wins to take his tally for the campaign to 134.
Hong Kong racing resumes at Happy Valley on the evening of Wednesday 12 April.
Photos 1, 2: John Moore-trained Rapper Dragon (No 7), ridden by Joao Moreira, wins the G2 The Chairman・s Trophy (1600m) at Sha Tin racecourse today.
The winning connections celebrate their success after the race.
Photos 4, 5, 6: Dr Simon Ip, Chairman of The Hong Kong Jockey Club, presents the Chairman・s Trophy and silver dishes to Rapper Dragon・s owner, Albert Hung Chao Hong, trainer John Moore and jockey Joao Moreira at the presentation ceremony.
All pose for a group photo at The Chairman・s Trophy presentation ceremony.