By Andrew Hawkins
Trainer John Moore remains confident that he can snare a seventh G1 Champions Mile on Sunday (7 May) after his two contenders, Rapper Dragon and Helene Paragon, impressed in turf gallops at Sha Tin on Thursday morning (4 May).
Rapper Dragon is the nominal favourite for the HK$16 million feature after his Four-Year-Old Classic Series clean sweep and his victory against most of his Champions Mile rivals in the G2 Chairman’s Trophy over the course and distance last start.
Regular rider Joao Moreira partnered the Street Boss gelding through a 1200m turf gallop in company with Class 4 conveyance Ashkiyr, stopping the clock in a time of 1m 20.1s (27.5, 29.3, 23.3).
“There are only a few words I can say that do it justice – I wouldn’t want to be on any other horse,” a beaming Moreira said in between gallops on Thursday morning. “I’ve said it before, but I do think at the moment, he’s the best in Hong Kong. His gallop was exactly what you’d want three days out from a race.”
Moore feels the Hong Kong Derby winner is already at a level that can see him take the Champions Mile, a race the trainer has won with Able One (2007 and 2010), Xtension (2011 and 2012), Dan Excel (2013) and Able Friend (2015).
“Very happy with that,” Moore said. “Everything went to plan, Joao said he couldn’t feel any fitter, he’s happy with the way he’s going. There’s no progression in a sense, he just believes that he can do the job in open company.”
Helene Paragon is the only galloper to win multiple Group 1 races in Hong Kong this season, having taken the G1 Stewards’ Cup (1600m) and the G1 Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup (1400m) earlier this term.
However, he disappointed Moore at his last two starts and again in a barrier trial last Tuesday (25 April), but the handler now believes that he might be on track again after Thursday’s gallop under Sam Clipperton. The Polan entire worked with recent Class 1 winner Midnight Rattler, recording a time of 1m 20.5s (28.8, 28.7, 23.0) as he got the better of his workmate by the best part of a length.
“That was impressive work,” Moore said. “On his trackwork, he’s going to run a big race. Maybe he’s just focused again now, after he idled for a little bit – I eased off him, but I’ve flicked the switch and he seems to have turned a corner. Now he just needs to translate that to Sunday – if he produces his best form, he’s right up there with Rapper Dragon and Beauty Only on his peak.”
Tommy Berry will take the reins on Sunday, but Clipperton, who has ridden Helene Paragon in trackwork a number of times this season, was bullish after the gallop.
“I rode Helene Paragon when he was at his peak earlier this season,” Clipperton said. “His last two pieces of work – his gallop on Saturday and again today – they have been as good, if not better, than earlier in the season when he was flying. I think he’ll be a force to be reckoned with.”
Tackling the Moore duo in the Champions Mile are Hong Kong Mile winner Beauty Only, last year’s runner-up Contentment, honest galloper Circuit Land and British visitors Stormy Antarctic and Convey.
Moore’s two runners in the G1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize (1200m), Not Listenin’tome and Dashing Fellow, worked solo down the Sha Tin riverside, jumping from the barriers at the 1800m chute to complete an 800m breeze over the back stretch. Not Listenin’tome completed his gallop in 47.4s (25.3, 22.1), while Dashing Fellow, with Clipperton aboard, covered the same journey in 46.5 (23.9, 22.6).
“Not Listenin’tome enjoys going out by himself, just an easy gallop over 800m,” Moore said. “He’s cajoled early to make sure he gets right into the bridle quickly. Dashing Fellow, he can sway and be a bit tardy from the gates so he needs encouraging too. They are both fit and ready to run well.”
The HK$14 million feature also sees two-time Hong Kong Sprint winner Aerovelocity make his last racetrack appearance, with rising star Mr Stunning, last year’s runner-up Lucky Bubbles and G1 winner Peniaphobia among the 12 runners.
Rapper Dragon gallops on the turf track this morning with Joao Moreira on board.
Helene Paragon works over 1200m on the turf track today.