A great day of racing on Sunday at Sha Tin gave us plenty to go home with. Here’s the top five things Classic Mile day taught us, or at least reminded us of:
1. Able Friend isn’t Hong Kong racing’s next superstar, he is Hong Kong racing’s superstar…
The future is now for John Moore’s Able Friend. Yesterday’s barnstorming win took the big chestnut to a rating of 115, up from 104, and gave those left in his slipstream little hope for the immediate future.
Going into the Group One Hong Kong Classic Mile Able Friend had the word potential alongside his name, but if he were to jump out of his own age group now and face yesterday’s Stewards’ Cup field – because that’s the company he will be keeping off his new mark – he might even start favourite. This is a horse that has had seven lifetime starts, and he hasn’t been taxed on the training track or tactically – so there is plenty left for the future.
It’s rare to see a horse with such size, power and speed also blessed with such a relaxed attitude. He has an unabashed fan in jockey Joao Moreira and as John Moore said post-race “the sky is the limit”.
2. Hong Kong horses have to race each other…
The virtually closed shop of Hong Kong racing, with its limited race schedule and horse population has many benefits – one of which is that star horses can rarely avoid each other for long.
In many other jurisdictions, Able Friend would be facing ever-decreasing field sizes as he asserted his dominance. His age-group rivals, perhaps even his stablemates, would be fleeing to find easier contests. In these days of ‘protected species’ colts being given cotton wool preparations, Asian racing takes us back to how things used to be, and should be, with racehorses doing what they are bred to do – race.
3. Tommy Berry is a Hong Kong star waiting to happen…
On his way to winning on John Moore’s Smart Forward Tommy Berry put a shoulder check on Moreira and Access Years that was equal parts tactical finesse and Australian-style brawn.
Moreira must have thought he was back in Singapore as he went to leisurely edge out of the box seat on the short-priced favourite, before Berry slammed the door shut – the one he half suggested was open – with a totally legal and race-winning move that ensured the Brazilian stayed put. It was as if Berry was saying – “Mate, what do you think you are doing?” There was a sense the young gun enjoyed cutting the tall poppy down.
Berry will return, along with fellow Sydneysider Hugh Bowman, for the back end of the season once The Championships are finished in April. The influx of new riding talent should make for great racing and Berry already endeared himself to the masses with 22 wins last term.
4. Hong Kong could have a very strong hand in Dubai…
Early entries for international races can be notoriously unreliable guides as to who actually shows up, but among the 21 individual Hong Kong horses entered for the rich Dubai World Cup Carnival, there look some likely travellers.
Despite the big night being more than two months away, Akeed Mofeed and Military Attack seem to already have their boarding passes, it is just a question of which race they head towards. Of the sprinters, Eagle Regiment, Joy And Fun and Amber Sky might as well go for Group One Al Quoz Sprint, because all they can do is go straight and they will run out of options at home. Then there are dirt trackers Rich Tapestry and Lord Sinclair who may look to try their luck on the Tapeta.
5. The Jockey Club may never let Tony Cruz near a live microphone again...
Post race interviews with Tony Cruz are thoroughly enjoyed by journalists – the unfiltered honesty is refreshing to say the least. But moments after Cruz told the world Helene Super Star had coughed five times before the Classic Mile, was full of mucus and should have been scratched from the race – there were similar coughing sounds emanating from the Jockey Club head honchos.
Who knows what awaits us as we approach the second half of the season?