Double shows Moore is back on track
John Moore knew after providing the runner-up in three recent Group races that things were turning around, and a 192-1 double yesterday confirmed that his season, while perhaps not vintage, is finally becoming more palatable.
Moore, last season's leading trainer by prize money and Group One wins, has gone through relative drudgery this season, effectively pulling teeth to make it to 18 wins, and even the mid-term presence of the swashbuckling Christophe Soumillon was unable to make a significant impact.
But the story behind yesterday's 29-1 winner Courageousheart (Anthony Delpech) mirrored the fortunes of many others in the stable - they've been laid low by the effects of a virus.
'In fact, Courageousheart was one of the first infected with it,' Moore explained after the chestnut had exploded back to form to land the Shek Tong Tsui Handicap (1,800m) on the all-weather track in new course-record time.
'He simply lost form but we've just had to persist with him and take our time and, finally, he's started to come back to himself.
'I have to give credit to young Thomas Yeung [Kai-tong] who rode him last start, afterwards he got off and told me he thought the horse was on the way back again.'
Delpech, the former South African champion who landed the HK$8 million Hong Kong Gold Cup with Vengeance Of Rain just six days earlier, has experienced something of a turnaround himself lately.
On this occasion, a confident Delpech bounced Courageousheart into a forward position and had the blinkered galloper travelling sweetly in the one-out-one-back position, while ill-fated Always Happy (who broke down at the top of the home straight) set a solid tempo.
'He wanted to drop the bit with me at the 600 metres but I knew he wasn't tired, he had been travelling too well for that, so I had to get into him to keep him going,' Delpech said.
'Although he seemed to be unfancied today, to me it was just a matter of whether he was right or not. As the winner of five races, being back in Class Four, he was going to be too good for these if he was back on his game.'
Mutual Fun, the second of Moore's winners, is a more likely horse to follow.
The well-bred Canny Lad gelding was having only his fourth start but registered his second victory with some authority, although the margin was only a neck and he still had to survive an objection from runner-up Triumphant Diamond.
'He's really starting to get it together and today, he was clearly the pick of the paddock,' Moore said.
'He's a very well-bred horse and I think he has quite a nice future. Today, Douglas [Whyte] has given him a lovely ride from just behind midfield and I liked the turn of foot he showed in the straight.'
Whyte, on his first day back after suspension, enjoyed his first ride on Mutual Fun and suggested there would be many more to come for the long-striding chestnut.
'He's a nice horse, a big strapping guy, and for such a big horse he's got a decent turn of foot and was able to give them a good start today and win,' Whyte said.
'I'd love to ride him when he gets over a trip a bit later on, that's when I think we'll see the best of him.'