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Moore has faith that Rome can still conquer in Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup


Designs On Rome will attempt to win back-to-back editions of the G1 Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup at Sha Tin Racecourse this Sunday (28 February). Trainer John Moore expects a bold effort from his stable star, who is without a win in five starts since an emphatic display in this event 12 months ago.

The 2014 Hong Kong Horse of the Year has been a notch or two below his best this season, failing to hit the frame in three outings since minor surgery to both front fetlocks back in May. The six-year-old finished eighth in the G1 Stewards’ Cup at a mile last month, flashing home from the tail in a standout 22.07s to offer hope of a return to form, but then left some observers cold with his display in a 1000m barrier trial at Sha Tin last week, an effort that satisfied Moore.

“So far, so good: he’s done everything right and his joints are handling really well,” said the handler. “His trial the other day - I know some people were saying he didn't look very good but you have to remember he got detached from an inside position over 1000 metres and I didn’t want him knocked round. I just wanted him to have a blow, which he did. The trial did its job and he’s pulled up very well after it.

“Working into Sunday, we did some work down the back straight Monday morning and the boy who rides him every morning was happy with that. He’ll do a little more three-quarter work on Friday and we are going into the race with confidence that he’s going to be right there in the finish.”

Tommy Berry partnered Designs On Rome to rattle off a notable hat-trick in the HKG1 Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m), HKG1 BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) and G1 AP QEII Cup (2000m) back in 2014, and on Sunday will renew the partnership for the first time since May of that year.

“It was a bit of a surprise but the owner contacted my P. A. and said he wanted Berry back on. From my point of view, Joao (Moreira) had done nothing wrong but owners have likes and dislikes - Tommy has won a Group 1 on him and he’ll be back in town and I hope we can win it for the second time. The horse is definitely the pick of mine.”

Moreira switches to Moore’s up-and-coming stayer, Helene Happy Star, whose sole Hong Kong win to date came last term in the HKG3 Queen Mother Memorial Cup over a mile and a half.

“Helene Happy Star has done everything right into this race,” said Moore. “He also went down the back straight on Monday and Joao came back and was very positive about the horse’s work.”

The Hong Kong Gold Cup is the second leg of the Hong Kong Triple Crown, the first, the G1 Stewards’ Cup having gone the way of the Richard Gibson-trained Giant Treasure who will re-oppose on Sunday. Also among the 11 entries are fellow G1 winners Blazing Speed and another Moore stable stalwart, the two-time G1 Singapore Airlines International Cup (2000m) hero Dan Excel.

“Dan Excel hasn’t been the same horse since returning from Singapore last year but a lot of that can be put down to age,” said Moore of the eight-year-old, who attempted to chase the trail-blazing A Shin Hikari in December’s G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup (2000m), only to fade late into seventh.

“He’s a bit long in the tooth now and he’s done a wonderful job but his last run or two have hinted at some improvement and he did chase the Japanese horse in the Hong Kong Cup. Hugh Bowman came in after that and said the run wasn’t that bad, he’s starting to get back into condition where he can be competitive.”

And if all goes well on Sunday, Moore could be tempted to take the 2013 G1 Champions Mile victor overseas for one last big hurrah.

“(Owner) David (Boehm) and I have had a talk about possible retirement at the end of the season, but we got a nice surprise yesterday when the Dubai Turf Club called and asked us if we’d like to run in the Godolphin Mile,” revealed Moore. “That’ll depend on his run at the weekend, but running on the dirt might be good for an old fella like him, so let’s see. He could be picking up place money on Sunday if he puts his right foot forward.”

Also engaged in Sunday’s top-class contest are the 2013 winner and former Horse of the Year, Military Attack, 2013 G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Vase (2400m) winner Dominant, last season’s G1 Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup (2400m) hero Helene Super Star, the rising talent Secret Weapon, Flame Hero and Mr Gnocchi.

Sunday’s action features a Group 1 double-header with the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup (1400m) also on the card. The race is set to include the 2014 winner Gold-Fun, as well as Beauty Flame, Contentment, Beauty Only and the exciting four-year-old Thewizardofoz.

Designs On Rome (No. 1) strides away to win the 2015 Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup.
Photo 1:
Designs On Rome (No. 1) strides away to win the 2015 Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup.


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