John Moore has a raft of talented contenders aiming to seal a berth at the LONGINES Hong Kong International Races on 14 December, and for the pick of that bunch Sunday’s (23 November) Jockey Club Races will be the final stop en route to the big day.
Sunday’s traditional trials comprise the LONGINES Jockey Club Cup (2000m), the BOCHK Wealth Management Jockey Club Mile and the BOCHK Wealth Management Jockey Club Sprint (1200m). Each holds international Group 2 status and each is open to overseas raiders. Moore has leading contenders for all three.
The trainer looks to reigning Horse of the Year Designs On Rome and last year’s G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Vase (2400m) hero Dominant in the LONGINES Jockey Club Cup. Moore won four successive editions of the race between 2007 and 2010 thanks to Viva Pataca (twice), Collection and Irian.
“Designs On Rome is right on target - his work leading into Sunday has been very good,” said Moore of last season’s HKG1 BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) winner, who earned his stripes against international opposition when successful in the G1 AP QEII Cup (2000m) in April.
Designs On Rome made a good start to this campaign with a first-up third in the HKG3 Celebration Cup on 5 October. That strong-closing effort over 1400m saw him pass the wire just three quarters of a length behind Hong Kong’s Champion Miler Gold-Fun, to whom he was conceding 3lbs. But the Holy Roman Emperor four-year-old failed to build on that run when over three lengths eighth to Military Attack in the HKG2 Oriental Watch Sha Tin Trophy (1600m) on 26 October.
“Just forget the last run, things didn’t go to suit with the slow pace,” said Moore. “We like the pace on and we can be pretty much assured of pace in the race on Sunday.
“I’d like to see him finish in the first three in this race and then I’d be very happy. He might win it because he’s quite advanced in his preparation. He’s just carrying a little condition because the second Sunday in December is when I want him at his absolute peak.
Dominant has finished well down the field in both his outings so far this season but Moore is adamant the six-year-old is where he wants him.
“Dominant has done a lot better than he did last year before winning the Vase,” he said. “Leading into Sunday’s race, he is more advanced than at the same stage last year and I’m just hoping there might be a little bit of cushion on the track. I reckon he’s going to run a big race at the weekend in preparation for the Vase next month.”
Able Friend would have carried off all three legs of the Hong Kong Four-Year-Old Series last season but for Designs On Rome. The strapping chestnut looked imperious when winning the HKG1 Hong Kong Classic Mile last January but had to settle for second place subsequently behind his stablemate in both the HKG1 Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m) and HKG1 BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m).
Long considered a superstar in the making, the BOCHK Wealth Management Jockey Club Mile contender showed his class in his sole previous start this season. Dropped down to 1200m for the HKG2 Premier Bowl (Handicap) on 26 October, the Shamardal gelding tanked into the home stretch and looked for all money the winner, only to falter for lack fitness in the closing stages.
“Able Friend was a good fourth in the 1200m race the other day but he would have won had he not missed his intended preparatory run due to a wrenched hock. We came away from the race with a lot of satisfaction,” said Moore.
“He’ll still be slightly over-done on Sunday, being such a gross horse, and he’ll no doubt be in need of the run, but he’ll be there when the whips are cracking at the 100m. Whether his condition will hold out is the question. He’ll be peaking come the 14th December - we’ll have him right for that. He’s done everything right and there’ll be improvement to come from this run.”
Sterling City landed the G1 Dubai Golden Shaheen (1200m - Tapeta) in March but has failed to make the frame in two starts this term, and disappointed most recently when 10th in the HKG2 Premier Bowl (Handicap) over the course and distance. He lines up in Sunday’s BOCHK Wealth Management Jockey Club Sprint.
“I’d just forgive Sterling City for that run the other day,” said Moore. “He just didn’t run to form. We didn’t find anything wrong, but as I said to (Joao) Moreira, we’ll just put it down to the second run syndrome. The first run this season was good over the 1000m and the second was lackluster. The way he’s worked coming into this, he’s a live chance. I would expect him to be in the first three, for sure.”
December’s LONGINES Hong Kong International Races, the Turf World Championships, carries total record prize money this year of HK$83 million. The four elite G1 races consist of the HK$25 million LONGINES Hong Kong Cup (2000m); the H$23 million LONGINES Hong Kong Mile (1600m); the HK$18.5 million LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (1200m); and the HK$16.5 million LONGINES Hong Kong Vase (2400m).
Past 10 winners of LONGINES Jockey Club Cup
Past 10 winners of BOCHK Wealth Management Jockey Club Mile
Past 10 winners of BOCHK Wealth Management Jockey Club Sprint