Tokyo success will complete Moore resume
Joyful Winner has what it takes to help trainer achieve his goal - Group One victory on foreign soil
John Moore can complete one of his few remaining unfulfilled career ambitions in Tokyo this afternoon with a victory by Joyful Winner in the $14.8 million Group One Yasuda Kinen.
The race holds a special place in Hong Kong racing history, for six years ago it was won by Philip Lau Sak-hong's champion Fairy King Prawn - trained by Ivan Allan and ridden by Robbie Fradd - giving SAR's its first foreign Group One victory.
Moore is already a living legend in the racing game. He has had more wins in Hong Kong than anyone in the business - 924 - and has won the trainer's championship five times, his first title coming in his debut season back in 1985-86.
In the current term, Moore has already set a new personal best of 61 winners, and counting, as well as landing six of only 14 Group One races decided at Sha Tin, highlighted by the Hong Kong Derby-Champions & Chater Cup double with Viva Pataca. He's also far and away our leading trainer by prize money.
But the 53-year-old son of the champion jockey turned 11 times Hong Kong champion trainer George Moore didn't make it to the top of his profession by looking backwards.
With every achievement accomplished, a new one is created so that the burn inside is never extinguished. And the burn that's driving him at the moment is the goal to win a Group One race on foreign soil with a Hong Kong-trained horse.
John Moore, today's your day.
Joyful Winner showed astonishing finishing speed in the Group One Queen's Silver Jubilee Cup over 1,400m on April 23, storming home from near last at the 200m to mercilessly rip victory away from the great Silent Witness.
He was then an unlucky third to today's major adversary Bullish Luck in the Group One Champions Mile at Sha Tin on May 7. And while Moore is not selling Bullish Luck or the high-class Japanese contingent short in this rich feature, there are a number of compelling reasons why Joyful Winner can turn the tables on his Tony Cruz-trained adversary.
Firstly, there is the 'potential energy' factor. Joyful Winner, through circumstances that were not of jockey Shane Dye's making, had by far the worst of the luck in the Sha Tin race. A brain snap by Eric Saint-Martin on race rival and stablemate Art Trader saw Dye basically knocked down on Joyful Winner at the 900m - for 'knocked down' read minus 1.5 lengths plus a significant tactical disadvantage.
If it were not for Saint-Martin's improper navigation, Joyful Winner would have tracked Bullish Luck into the race and if he didn't defeat the star miler, he certainly would have finished a close second.
The advantage that Joyful Winner has coming into the Yasuda Kinen is that the energy he might have spent in different circumstances on May 7 is still contained within his athletic frame, just waiting for the right circumstances to be unleashed.
Champion Australian jockey Darren Beadman gave us an insight into the probable release of that energy this afternoon when he rode Joyful Winner for the first time at Tokyo racecourse on Friday morning.
Beadman, who has ridden many champions in his homeland including 10-time Group One hero Octagonal and his all-conquering son Lonhro, said Joyful Winner always had another gear to spare at different stages of his 800m turf gallop. Joyful Winner is, Beadman said, a push-button ride, with the gelding having a change of pace every time the jockey asked and then yet another one when a follow-up question was posed.
Bullish Luck must be respected because he is, absolutely, a champion miler. His Achilles heel seems to be putting two of those giant-killing performances back to back, something he hasn't been able to do since he arrived at the top grade.
The Duke, runner-up to Hat Trick in the Hong Kong Mile in December, is unlikely to win because he's only 90 per cent right. One run back from a spell, at 1,200m, will not be sufficient after the setback he experienced earlier in the year.
And no horse, not even champions, win Group One races when 90 per cent right. Group One events are horse racing's equivalent of a football Grand Final, a World Cup, Formula One Grand Prix, or Wimbledon. It's either 100 per cent, or no cigar.