Soumillon delivers Best Gift for Moore
John Moore left Sha Tin last night with a new credential, having equalled the lifetime number of wins of retired Brian Kan Ping-chee - 844 - the most wins ever by a Hong Kong trainer.
Favourite Best Gift ($23.50) showed an exquisite turn of acceleration for jockey Christophe Soumillon to snare the EWO Challenge Trophy by a nose from Douglas Whyte's mount Green Treasure to give Moore the record-equalling mark.
However, the defeat of favourite Famous Dancer in the final event prevented Moore from gaining the record outright and that milestone will have to wait for another day.
'It's a great thrill to equal Brian's record but that horse is not good for the nerves,' Moore said.
'That temperament of his is rather unfortunate.
'At home in the mornings he's perfect. But when he gets out the back there in the parade ring and sees a couple of thousand people, he just falls to pieces.'
Moore ordered one of his best horsemen to walk Best Gift down to the start riderless, a tactic that earned him an audience with stipendiary stewards immediately after the race.
'I was trying to do the right thing by the horse, the owners, the jockey and the punters who have probably invested around $40 million on the horse,' Moore explained. 'He was getting quite upset and I certainly didn't want to be putting my jockey in danger, when he was in that sort of mood.'
Stewards, however, saw the issue quite differently. The official report said: '[Moore] was fined $5,000 for failing to seek the permission of the stewards to have the horse led by his stable staff to the start [Stewards' Instruction 24]. In assessing the penalty, the stewards took into account Best Gift had previously shown itself to be unruly in the parade and on the way to the barriers.'
Moore copped the penalty on the chin and said he would not be contesting it. Stewards defended the finding by saying it was not appropriate for trainers to be taking these matters into their own hands.
'We have had a number of trainers, over the years, approach us about having horses led to the start riderless and we have refused,' chief steward Jamie Stier explained. Best Gift, meanwhile, confirmed the potential shown so glaringly with his 51/2-length stroll on New Year's Day. From barrier 13, Soumillon decided to ride the gelding quietly in the early stages and ride a waiting race with fellow backmarker Super Combed.
'I was actually quite concerned about Super Combed because he has such a big finish and I did not want him going before I did,' Soumillon explained.
'So I waited until we had almost straightened up before I took him to the outside and he sprinted strongly - this horse has a very good turn of foot.
'But once he hit the front, he tends to lose concentration. However, it was still a very good win because I think the second horse [Green Treasure] is very smart too.
'His temperament is a worry, though. He may be able to get all upset and agitated against these horses but he cannot do this against the very best and keep winning. I hope he gets better,'' the jockey added.