Military Attack can spoil his stablemates' Derby assault
Military Attack is one of four runners John Moore has safely qualified for the Group One Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong Derby, but the boom import could cost another two of his stablemates a place in the classic with a win in the Lion City Handicap (1,800m), a race the trainer knows all too well.
In 2009, Moore planned to start eventual Derby winner Collection in the 1,800m Class Two at Sha Tin, placed an ideal two weeks before the big race. A first-up second bumped the expensive European buy's rating to 101 and outside the usual bracket for the race.
The trainer lobbied successfully to have the event's ratings bracket extended to 105-80, and his four-year-old duly won on his way to Group One glory a fortnight later.
This time Moore has an embarrassment of Derby riches - Classic Cup winner Zaidan (110 rating), Smart Giant (105) and the ominously-improving Dominant (104), are all at the pointy end of the ratings-based order of entry.
On 97, Military Attack is also safe, but Moore's other two runners in today's 'Collection Handicap', Dan Excel (91) and, in particular, Same World (87) remain on the bubble.
Same World is 21st out of the Derby-nominated four-year-olds and would surely need to win or go very close to receive the sort of ratings boost he needs to ensure a run.
While the race proved fortuitous in Moore's progression of Collection to his grand final, if Military Attack wins, he would likely deny Same World a place.
Military Attack blitzed rivals at Happy Valley over 1,650m, and while a soft draw and rails run left some doubts, his explosive finish caught the eye.
His three English wins were over a mile, and he has never been beyond the 1,650m he contested last start, but after Darren Beadman dismounted he suggested the horse would be ready for the rigors of racing here.
'He is a tough horse ... I made him run through the line, and sometimes the English horses feel that, but he stood up to it,' he said.
Add to that Moore's assertion the son of Oratorio has the most upside of his imports, and it seems Military Attack should be hitting his straps after the first-up run.
Neil Callan replaces the injured Beadman on Military Attack, while Douglas Whyte takes the reins on Same World.
If Same World can make the similar race-to-race progression as he has in his first three local starts, he could be a serious threat, not just here but in two weeks.
Same World had three straight wins in France, all over the Derby distance of 2,000m, before leaving and he looks a ready to run a race.
The third of Moore's runners, Dan Excel (Jeff Lloyd) looked tubby before he rattled home for a first-up third over a mile a month ago, and was then a credible seventh after racing wide in the Classic Cup.
The horse still appeared underdone last start, but he has a short-coupled build that gives that appearance. Whatever he looks like, Dan Excel is game and should be getting home strongly.
The race also includes fellow Derby entries Packing Tycoon, Helene Fun Star, Aomen, Banksters Bonus and Horace's Empire, but is a five-year-old who featured in the Classic last season who could also spoil Moore's plans.
Caspar Fownes' Let Me Handle It (Olivier Doleuze) placed third in both the Classic Cup and Derby last year, but his form has been spotty this term.
At his best he can figure, and a cracking trial behind stablemate Lucky Nine last week has him looking superb.
Carthage (Eddie Lai Wai-ming) famously didn't get to start his Derby campaign for Moore in 2009, and now he could derail his former handler's 2012 Derby designs.
Now with Derek Cruz, the six-year-old has a feather weight of 113, minus two pounds for Lai, and was an encouraging third on the dirt last start.
The winning strike rate for John Moore and Neil Callan this season