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Moore still sweet on Werther for BMW Hong Kong Derby


John Moore has saddled up four horses for BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) success and on Sunday (20 March) the handler will send out another quartet, hoping that one will hit the bullseye in what promises to be a thrilling race for this year’s HK$18 million local G1 feature.

Werther is Moore’s pick. The Tavistock gelding has done nothing wrong in his three Hong Kong starts, winning first-up back in December and then running close when second to the John Size-trained Sun Jewellery in the Derby’s two premier lead-ups, the HKG1 Hong Kong Classic Mile and the HKG1 Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m).

“Werther’s got the form on the board and he’ll be getting to the line even stronger than he was in the last few races,” said the trainer. “He stays further than 2000 metres, so he would be my pick. But this Derby is competitive. I can see a very thrilling finish and I’m just happy I have a few guns in there.  Sun Jewellery is the main danger but the gate draw - that will be the telling factor for all horses.”

Werther was kept ticking over for Hong Kong’s blue riband event with a 1200m all-weather barrier trial at Sha Tin on 8 March. Crack young sprinter Lucky Bubbles tore off ahead that day and Werther was allowed to relax into his own rhythm and run home sweetly.  

“The trial just kept him at the level I want him at,” said Moore of the gelding that scored a G2 win in Australia at 2200m pre import. “He won first-up here in Hong Kong when he was slightly underdone but it did give me a very good idea as to what sort of work would be required to make sure we kept him at a peak for Derby day. He’s no fitter than he was last start, all we need is a little more luck - and I think that luck will come from the fact that he is definitely stout enough to get the 2000 metres.”

Moore’s four also features Helene Paragon, a horse with a strong following among Spanish race fans. The gelding made a winning career debut at San Sebastian in Spain and graduated to compete in a French classic, finishing fifth in the G1 Poule d’Essai des Poulains (1600m). The Polan gelding has progressed through three Hong Kong starts and was an eye-catching winner of a Class 2 handicap over 1800m last time. 

“Helene Paragon won very nicely the other day, his sectionals were very good; they were comparable to Collection’s sectionals when Collection won in the lead-up to his Derby win. Helene Paragon has done everything right. I still think there’s further improvement to come with further acclimatisation, but he won nicely last time.

“I’m hoping he gets a good draw because he’s the type of horse that gets on the bit and has a tendency to over-race, but if he could draw a good gate, three, four, five or six, and get cover, he’s definitely a live chance. He will stay.”

Victory Magic and White Magic make up the Moore four and the trainer is hoping for a bit of magic, not least from Zac Purton who rides the seemingly enigmatic Victory Magic. The talented gelding has failed to pass the post first in 13 career outings both here and in Australia and has placed second in four of five starts this term.
“Victory Magic hasn’t got his head in front yet and I think that’s more to do with his character than bad luck,” said Moore. “With Douglas (Whyte) the other day we learnt that hitting the front too early brought him undone. Given a good gate, he’s got a jockey in-form in Zac Purton, he could come out and shock everybody because we know he has the turn-of-foot, we know he gets the distance and we know how he has to be ridden now.

“He’s a very fit horse, he had a little freshen-up after his last race and he’s jumping out of his skin, so with Zac in the saddle, he’s one that the exotic players would need to put into their calculations.”

British import White Magic has raced respectably in three Hong Kong starts but has the look of a horse still coming to grips with his new life.

“White Magic still has a ways to go,” said Moore, “he’s not 100 percent there. He’s fit enough but I think he needs a little more time to acquaint himself with the Hong Kong way of racing.”

Moore’s four previous Hong Kong Derby winners are Makarpura Star (1995), Viva Pataca (2006), Collection (2009) and Designs On Rome (2014).

The 2016 BMW Hong Kong Derby will see Sun Jewellery bid to become the first horse to win all three four-year-old majors after narrow verdicts in the HKG1 Hong Kong Classic Mile and HKG1 Hong Kong Classic Cup. Stablemate Eastern Express will attempt to give owner Larry Yung a third Derby (1997 Oriental Express, 2002 Olympic Express).

The Ricky Yiu-trained Blizzard shared third with Eastern Express in the Hong Kong Classic Cup last start, a race in which the Tony Cruz-trained big-name European import Giovanni Canaletto flew home to finish fifth.

Trainer Richard Gibson and owner Pan Sutong, Derby winners with Akeed Mofeed in 2013, rely on Consort, G1-placed in England. Completing the field of 14 are the Cruz-trained King Genki and Green Dispatch, the Dennis Yip-trained Lucky Girl, Friends Of Ka Ying from the Benno Yung stable and the Chris So-trained Hero Look.

Werther makes a winning Hong Kong debut in a Class Two Handicap with Hugh Bowman in the saddle.
Photo 1:
Werther makes a winning Hong Kong debut in a Class Two Handicap with Hugh Bowman in the saddle.


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