By David Morgan
Rapper Dragon’s form heading into this weekend’s HK$16 million G1 Champions Mile already had a polished veneer, but an extra lick of varnish was added on Sunday (30 April) afternoon when the peers he vanquished in the Four-Year-Old Classic Series caught the eye at Sha Tin.
Pakistan Star, second behind Rapper Dragon in the BMW Hong Kong Derby, surged into the same berth behind Japan’s Neorealism in the G1 APQEII Cup. And Derby also-rans Eagle Way and Helene Charisma - the John Moore-trainee’s G1-winning stablemates - quinella-ed yesterday’s G3 Queen Mother Memorial Cup Handicap.
“The four-year-old form looked very good before yesterday but it was nice to see those horses do that, it does add extra sheen to what Rapper Dragon has already achieved,” Moore said.
“Hong Kong has got some nice horses to fill the void that the older horses are leaving,” he continued, “two in particular, Rapper Dragon and Pakistan Star, are world-class gallopers and it’s great that we have them here.”
Rapper Dragon heads into the upcoming 7 May test off a four-win streak that includes a history-making hat-trick in the Classic Series. No horse before had ever managed to complete the Hong Kong Classic Mile, Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m), Hong Kong Derby (2000m) set. And a victory over the best of his elders, including this term’s mile G1 winners Beauty Only and Helene Paragon, in last month’s G2 Chairman’s Trophy at the course and distance, confirmed to regular partner Joao Moreira exactly where the Australian import stands in the pecking order.
“I think he’s the best horse here at the moment,” the champion jockey said. “It is, of course, going to be a test on Sunday but I think he’s capable of overcoming it and re-confirming that he’s the best in town.”
The exciting chestnut, who placed second in the G1 Champagne Stakes as a juvenile when stabled with Gai Waterhouse in Sydney, will step into open level-weights company for the first time in the upcoming spring feature. The Champions Mile has attracted a field of seven, including the British-trained duo Stormy Antarctic and Convey.
“He has done everything he’s been asked and I still think there’s more improvement to come from him,” Moreira added. “He’s been winning but he’s been indicating to me, at the same time, that he’s still a little green and not doing it sharply. The way he’s been doing it, you’d be happy, though, because even though he’s been playing around in his races he’s still been beating them quite easily.”
Moore shares Moreira’s confidence as he aims at scooping a remarkable seventh win in the race (2007 & 2010 Able One, 2011 & 2012 Xtension, 2013 Dan Excel, 2015 Able Friend).
“I’m very positive about his chances at the weekend,” he said. “He’s done everything right and his work on Saturday morning was exceptional. He ran down the last 200m in 11.3 or 11.4 seconds, which is very smart, especially for a horse that is rather laidback in his work and doesn’t enjoy the surface (all-weather track). He’s still peaking.”
But Moore is not so sure that his latest star will advance to a higher peak than he has already shown.
“I think, what you’ve seen, that’s what you’ve got - I don’t think there’s further improvement, I think he’s already shown that he’s a top horse. I do think that if he continues in this fine form it will be good enough to win the Champions Mile, because he’s beating everything,” he said.
“I think he’s already there. Within the stable, he’s a happy camper, everything is cherry ripe. We know what kind of a track-worker he is and if he just maintains this level of talent, what more do we want?
“If there was further improvement, wow! I wouldn’t say no to it,” Moore continued, “but I think we’re seeing a horse that’s really settled into the environment; he has no soundness issues, he’s winning his races and I couldn’t be happier with him. Of course, he’s still got to win the Champions Mile and beat them all, but I’m quite positive that he’s up to doing that.”
Video: Rapper Dragon powered clear of his peers to win January’s Hong Kong Classic Mile
Rapper Dragon gets the better of Beauty Only to win the G2 Chairman��s Trophy.
John Moore��s star cantered on the all-weather track this morning.