11 years: Well worth the wait for Moore
John Moore had waited 11 years to find his second Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong Derby winner as Viva Pataca added another rich layer to an already golden season for the trainer yesterday - and it could all have been turned upside down in a split second at the top of the straight.
After Viva Pataca had scored comfortably to join Makarpura Star (1995) as Moore's Derby heroes, the trainer talked about the pressures in getting the former English gelding successfully to the winner's stall.
'I'm over the moon. We've had butterflies in our stomachs in the lead-up to this,' Moore said, as much relieved as excited. 'From the moment he was purchased, Viva Pataca has been aimed at winning the Derby, and there is a lot of pressure to deliver on that promise. Mr Ho spent a lot of money on the horse, we thought he was the right horse - and I have to thank Alastair Donald and Kern Lillington Bloodstock, who are my agents in Britain, for finding him.
'He was the right breed, the Marju horses do so well in this Hong Kong environment while so many other Northern Hemisphere horses have trouble acclimatising - but today he's done everything we had always hoped and won the Derby and now we can just enjoy it.'
But the story could so easily have had another ending, with only the combined nerve and sharp reflexes of Viva Pataca and jockey Christophe Soumillon avoiding trouble that could have ended the favourite's whole Derby plan at the 400m.
Stewards later suspended Brett Prebble (Happee Owner) for two meetings and fined him an additional $80,000 for the interference caused behind him to Great Achievement as Prebble attempted to shift in and shut the gate on Viva Pataca.
For two strides Viva Pataca was in a sandwich between Happee Owner and Very Fit which could have chopped him out of the race, but the gelding showed real desire and tenacity to shrug off the mishap and go through with his finishing burst to put the race away.
Among the beaten brigade, there were few excuses, with Gerald Mosse putting the defeat of second-favourite Hello Pretty (fifth) down to his inability to relax in the lead.
'There was not much speed, so I went forward. I tried to get him to relax but he just did too much. The horse has a lovely engine and the trainer has done a good job but Hello Pretty paid at the finish for what he did early on,' Mosse said.
Caspar Fownes was left wondering what might have been after Hail The Storm (Shane Dye) defied the conditions and his 75-1 odds to charge into second place, after being last on the home turn.
'If you look through his form, Hail The Storm hates any give in the track so he's just run a fantastic race from the outside gate,' Fownes said.
' I knew that he would run well because he was fully fit at last today and even with the ground against him I told his owner that Hail The Storm would still finish in the first five. On top of the ground, he'd have given it a real shake but you can't do anything about the weather.'
Dennis Yip Chor-hong-trained Silver Sun (Dwayne Dunn) also provided a 63-1 surprise with his big performance for third.
'I should ride all of Dennis's horses in the big races,' laughed Dunn, who had landed an even bigger surprise earlier in the season on Yip-trained Dave's Best in the International Mile Trial.
'The winner was in a different class but Silver Sun ran a great race. He switched off beautifully, got a nice run through the race and really tried his heart out down the straight.'