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Stars stretch out ahead of Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup


With the second leg of the Hong Kong Triple Crown series, the HK$10 million G1 Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup, less than two weeks hence (28 February), a handful of stars stretched their legs in barrier trials at Sha Tin this morning (16 February).

Designs On Rome won the 2000m contest 12 months ago and trainer John Moore expressed his satisfaction after the Holy Roman Emperor six-year-old had completed a 1000m turf trial under Terry Wong. The former Hong Kong Horse of the Year naturally found things happening too quickly for him as he was bustled lightly in isolation at the tail. Beauty Flame, meanwhile, showed smart toe to lead them home under Zac Purton in 58.45s and Designs On Rome kept on well enough to run home sixth of seven in 59.86s.

“He needed that barrier trial - he needed a good blow to put him right for next time.” said Moore of his stable star, who is without a win in three starts this term following minor surgery last May.

Last time, in the G1 Stewards’ Cup (1600m), Designs On Rome closed off from the rear to finish two and a quarter lengths eighth behind Giant Treasure, clocking the fastest final 400m of all with a split of 22.07s.

“His joints are handling really well following surgery and his run the other day was really good, he closed off in very good sectionals,” said Moore. “He’s going in the right direction in respect of defending his Gold Cup crown. I’m very happy with him. He’s definitely the horse to beat if he brings his ‘A’ game.”

Moore’s Dan Excel, the only two-time winner of the G1 Singapore Airlines International Cup (2000m), appeared to be in good form as he ran home three quarters of a length behind Beauty Flame to pass the post fifth in 58.57s. 

The Tony Cruz-trained Blazing Speed was in action a little while later under regular pilot Neil Callan. Last year’s G1 Audemars Piguet QEII Cup (2000m) winner took part in a 1200m all-weather track trial and finished ahead of four others in a time of 1m 10.43s. 

“That was a nice trial,” said Callan, who allowed his mount to stride on at leisure and easily held the driven along People’s Knight by a neck at the line.

“It was a small field - he’s getting a bit older now so he probably wants to be striding out and getting a blow into him, which is the purpose of the trial, he only ran a couple of weeks ago (5th in Stewards’ Cup) so I think that will just blow him out and put him spot on. He feels really well and looks good so I’m very happy with him.”


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