“Sprinters beware!” was John Moore’s playful warning after Able Friend had stretched his legs and expanded his lungs in a 1000m turf barrier trial at Sha Tin this morning (Tuesday, 13 October) in company with a clutch of Hong Kong’s smartest speedsters, among them Lucky Nine, Amber Sky, Bundle Of Joy and Dundonnell.
There was, though, more than a hint of credibility to Moore’s pronouncement after the strapping chestnut had enjoyed a solid workout under Karis Teetan to finish an untested five lengths behind the trial “winner” Amber Sky. Able Friend, wide on the track after breaking from the oft-deemed unfavourable gate one, clocked a time of 58.26s.
Hong Kong’s Horse of the Year and the world’s top-rated miler at present is on course for his seasonal bow - against the sprinters - in the HKG2 Premier Bowl (1200m) at Sha Tin on 25 October.
“I’m delighted with the trial and Karis said it was a very good trial, too. He had a good blow but that’s to be expected - this is the start of his prep,” said Moore of his stable star, who missed a week of work when he tweaked his back end during a gallop on 2 September.
“I requested that he jump from gate one this morning to keep him over there on the lovely flat ground down the centre of the track,” said the trainer. “He’s had a hind quarter problem so I wanted to keep him as level as we could.”
It was a similar story a year ago, the difference being that Able Friend’s early season setback this time around was of a much more minor nature than 12 months ago.
“He was well underdone for last year’s Premier Bowl after his injury on that wet track,” said Moore, “but he still ran admirably to finish fourth and he looked like the winner at the 200-metre. This setback was not as bad as last season’s. We’re following the same path but he’s a fitter horse than he was when he went into this 1200-metre last season. When the 25th comes he’ll be a much fitter horse and I expect him to run a very big race. Hopefully we can draw a gate.”
Joao Moreira has partnered Able Friend to all of his elite level wins but Teetan is slated to take the ride in the Premier Bowl, as he has done thrice previously. The Mauritian rider’s most notable association with Hong Kong’s Horse of the Year came when the pair took the HKG2 Chairman’s Trophy in April, 2014.
“Karis is two from three on him and so he will ride him,” said Moore. “I was thinking of starting Able Friend in the mile (HKG2 Oriental Watch Sha Tin Trophy) on the same day but I couldn’t get the run into him over 1400 metres on 4 October and for that reason he starts over 1200 metres here. Joao had already accepted the ride on Peniaphobia, so that being the case Karis jumped at the chance to ride. We’re right on target - we’ll see if he’s the same horse as last season but I’m pretty sure he will be.”
Teetan is looking forward to renewing his acquaintance with the six-year-old, whose last start brought a below-par sixth in the G1 Queen Anne Stakes (1600m) at Royal Ascot.
“This morning Mr Moore just wanted the horse to have a nice easy blow the last 200 metres,” said Teetan. “Underneath me he felt nice and healthy, he gave a nice blow and I think this trial will bring his fitness on. He’s a racehorse and he knows when he’s going to the races and what he needs to do. Last season in this race he came out so wide and came to hit the front but just got tired - you could see his class. It could be a 1200-metre or it could be a 1400-metre but when it’s time, I know this horse, he’s very good and when it’s time he will bring his best.
“It’s his first run of the season, it’s on the sharp side for him, but I think we’ll see him hitting the line strongly and he’ll come on for it.”
Shortly after Able Friend et al had trialled, Hong Kong’s Champion Sprinter Aerovelocity stepped onto the all-weather track for a 1200m trial under Zac Purton. Paul O’Sullivan’s charge is another likely to make his first start of the 2015/16 season in the Premier Bowl, a race he won first-up last term. The seven-year-old strode out easily to pass the post three and three-quarter lengths to the good.
The Caspar Fownes-trained Gun Pit, Hong Kong’s rising dirt track star, cruised around at the tail before closing off in the stretch to finish almost nine lengths fourth of eight.
Photos 1, 2 :
Able Friend (red cap) preps in a 1000m turf barrier trial at Sha Tin this morning.