Battle of patience against experience as trainers aim to make history in Derby

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 March, 2012, 12:00am


John Moore and Richard Gibson have gone specifically for importing patience, while John Size is flying in a wealth of experience.

But the three trainers will have something in common when the gates open for Sunday's Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong Derby - they'll be looking to make history.

While it has become fashionable in the past decade for some owners to engage big-name jockeys for a one-off Derby ride, it has not brought results. Jockeys flown in for a one-ride shot at the classic have yet to win the race.

A win for Weichong Marwing on Sweet Orange on Sunday would be different - the South African has been shuttling back and forth for the mount in lead-ups. Christophe Soumillon and Maxime Guyon won the Derby on Viva Pataca and Ambitious Dragon respectively when they flew back to continue an association formed during their club jockey contracts earlier in that season.

But riders specifically brought in for the Derby on a new engagement, like Kieren Fallon (Beauty Lead), Craig Williams (Military Attack) and Felix Coetzee (Real Specialist) this Sunday, have yet to take out the race.

'We'll have to change that then,' said Moore, who hopes Williams can continue his rich vein of big-race success in Australia, Hong Kong and Japan.

'Craig gets the job done in these important races. He's no stranger to Sha Tin, having been a club jockey here, and I think he'll give Military Attack the kind of patient ride he needs. When the horse was unplaced second up, I think he was just too close in the run.

'It was one of those things - you draw a good gate and feel it should be used to race handier, but it didn't suit this horse and he didn't show the turn of foot that he has got.

'He's not a difficult ride and tucked in midfield or even a bit worse than midfield, he's the real deal and he'll show it.'

Former Chantilly-based Gibson said he had no past connection with Fallon, except for watching him win majors on regular forays into France.

He is looking for some similar magic from Fallon on dark horse Beauty Lead, whose owner, Simon Kwok Siu-ming, unsuccessfully imported Frankie Dettori for favourite Beauty Flash in 2010.

'All my career I saw Kieren Fallon win big races from behind and late finishers are his forte,' Gibson said. 'We discussed available options and thought he was the best of them and Kieren is very excited to be coming back to Hong Kong.

'The horse has improved a lot since his second run. We were delighted with his trial at Happy Valley and his last gallop was impressive. He ticks every box.'

Fallon's only Derby ride here was 12 years ago, when he missed out by half a length on Housemaster for Ivan Allan. But Felix Coetzee will have his 16th Hong Kong Derby ride on Real Specialist, and has twice been a winner and twice runner-up. 'I don't think it's any accident a relatively small group of certain jockeys win the big races wherever you go,' said Size.

'This is a very competitive race for the jockeys and I'm sure Felix, being so experienced at the top level, will count in Real Specialist's favour.

'Felix did a lot of riding for me when he was here and he is very good at rating horses on the pace, which is probably where we would expect to be, and very strong in a finish.'

The most experienced jockey will link with the least experienced horse in the field, but Size is pleased with Real Specialist as he makes his third start in as many weeks on Sunday.

'I wasn't expecting him to come out of last week's run with any adverse reaction and he hasn't,' Size says. 'I was never worried about backing up again into the Derby - if anything, I think Real Specialist wanted the racing.'