Dragon's win leaves Moore astonished
John Moore training a winner early in the season is never fresh news, but the man himself was left somewhat bemused as Soaring Dragon bolted in with a rain-soaked Kwangtung Handicap Cup (1,400m) first-up to break the ice for the new term.
The win by five lengths gave Moore and stable jockey Darren Beadman their first victory for the season, while the six-year-old had some admirers in the betting, Moore wasn't one of them.
'I'm a bit surprised really. He's a big horse and hadn't had a trial so I thought he was underdone for the race,' Moore said. 'But I guess if you look at his record, he has been a horse who has run very well fresh in the past and he's done it again today.'
With Billion and California Moon pressing forward inside him, Beadman was trapped three deep without cover all the way on Soaring Dragon but it didn't make a difference - in fact, it might have been a blessing.
'When you look at the four races he has won, it is always when he's in the open and left to do his thing with lots of room - I think he gets claustrophobic when he draws in and has to be cluttered up inside horses,' Beadman said.
Most eyes were on the Caspar Fownes-trained Happy Boy, a well-backed $31 favourite, but by the top of the straight, he was giving away a huge start to Soaring Dragon, who simply surged clear and the race was over in a few strides. 'By the last race, after there was all that rain during the day, Darren might have been out in the better going anyway at that stage,' Moore said. 'The horse has ploughed through the wet ground without a worry and I'm happy to get a score on the board, even if we're starting with a win I wasn't expecting.'
Moore said there were no particular plans for Soaring Dragon, but he is expecting 'a win or two more.'
'I don't think the handicapper could be too hard on him for today - in these conditions, I don't think that the margin really means a great deal,' Moore commented.
'But I think when the horse gets up to a mile he'll be even better suited and there should be a win or two more left in him.'
It was the fourth time Moore had produced Soaring Dragon on the fresh side, with three wins and a third his record.
Happy Boy ultimately rattled home late to finish fifth, with Vaugirard, Easy Winner and Dragon Fighter separating him from the winner.