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Werther primed for Classic Cup mission


Werther posted arguably the most concrete HKG1 BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) trial of any contender so far when a strong-closing, somewhat unfortunate, second to the laudable Sun Jewellery in last month’s HKG1 Hong Kong Classic Mile. On Sunday (21 February) at Sha Tin, trainer John Moore’s great hope will attempt to confirm that impression with victory in the HKG1 Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m).

“Werther should have won the other day, in my opinion,” said Moore. “It was smart riding by Ryan Moore on Sun Jewellery. He put him back inside and Werther had to loop back around then he came outside and finished off well.”

Jockey Hugh Bowman found himself in an untimely pocket, took a rough bump on straightening for home and didn’t find clear running until the 200m mark, by which point Sun Jewellery - re-opposing on Sunday - had quickened a length ahead of him. That was cut back to a neck at the post.

Moore is delighted with the former New Zealand galloper that finished second in both the G1 South Australian Derby (2500m) and G1 Queensland Derby (2200m) pre-import. Werther hit his stride immediately upon arriving in Hong Kong, winning first-up in a Class 2 handicap over 1600m in December before that Classic Mile second.

“After his work along the back straight on Monday (15 February) he was kicking his brand off, he was having a real buck, he’s that well,” said Moore, referencing the gelding’s  workout on the turf track, during which he clocked 57.2s (30.8 26.4) for 800m. “He’s pulled up clean-winded and he’s done what he needs to do, he’ll just go out again on Friday morning but he won't do much.

“It’s been said that you only need a good miler to win the Derby here in Hong Kong, well I haven’t got a good miler I’ve got a good 1800/2000-metre horse! He’ll hit the line really strongly.”

And Moore believes the Tavistock gelding has what it takes to make the grade in the major open Group 1 races: “He’s a decent acquisition and I think he’s a horse that can go on after the Derby and compete in those Group 1 races like the QEII Cup. I think he might be one that could do Hong Kong proud.”  

Moore is also set to saddle British import White Magic in Sunday’s second leg of the Hong Kong four-year-old series. The Aussie Rules colt, Listed-placed at a mile in England, raced to a  solid fifth on his only Hong Kong start to date, a 1400m Class 2 on 24 January.

“White Magic isn’t far off being right there,” said Moore. “I had no option but to run him on Sunday and I’d like to get another run into him in that 1800-metre race on the 6 March. That would be a very good lead-in to the Derby.”

The field of 12 for Sunday’s Hong Kong Classic Cup also features Classic Mile third Blizzard, G1 St James’s Palace Stakes (1600m) third Consort, English Derby (2400m) fourth and Irish Derby (2400m) third Giovanni Canaletto, G1 winners Friends Of Ka Ying and The Monarch, as well California Disegno, Green Dispatch, McQueen and the improving Eastern Express.

Moore hopes to have two further contenders make it to the starting gates for this year’s BMW Hong Kong Derby on 20 March, neither of which will line-up in the Classic Cup. Helene Paragon, another European import, has put in two smart efforts in Class 2 handicaps since arriving at Sha Tin, while Australian import Victory Magic already has the benefit of seven starts across two seasons in Hong Kong. 

“All four of mine want the Derby distance,” said Moore, who has won the Derby four times, most recently in 2014 with Designs On Rome. “Helene Paragon, he was starting to knuckle down last start. He’d been on the big side, dropped a bit of weight off and he ran a good race. Dougie (Whyte) came in and said he’s right on target. He’ll likely run in the 1800m handicap on 6 March. They’re all going in the right direction. Dougie rides Victory Magic in the Class 2 2000-metre race at Sha Tin this weekend.”


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