'To win with the big weight today like that says something about his potential,' says Moore
Australian jockey Michael Rodd added a Queen Elizabeth II Cup day double to what will tally up as a very solid first season in Hong Kong and then paid credit where it was due for John Moore's handling of his difficult stayer Best Gift.
Best Gift may have been in the support cast at yesterday's star-studded meeting but he has only been just behind the best of a vintage classic group this season and took one more step towards the big time himself by winning the Class Two sixth event under 133 pounds.
'I have to say that was a very impressive performance and it looks like he's really turned the corner mentally,' Moore said of the formerly cantankerous gelding he once declared he would never want as a house pet due to his bad attitude.
'There's no doubt today was the most relaxed he has been on race day and to win with the big weight today like that says something about his potential.'
Not so long ago, Best Gift's troublesome antics at the start of his races, particularly coming out 100 metres behind the Classic Mile field, cost him a chance to run in the Hong Kong Derby but Best Gift is now looking more tractable - a more complete and focused racehorse all round.
Moore said he had changed Best Gift's mafoo and changed his stall at the stables in an effort to 'find the right recipe that suits him'.
Rodd added that Moore's efforts with both Best Gift and another hard-to-manage horse, Tiber, were paying off.
'John does a lot of one-on-one work with these temperamental horses to settle them down and you can see every day how they're improving,' he said.
'Tiber had a tough run in his race today and you can overlook where he finished but he's become much more relaxed before his races. Best Gift was the best horse in the race on what he's done so he had the big handicap weight, though he had an inside draw to offset it. But with the on-pace bias today, he had to be kicked out of the gates and put handy behind the speed and there was a time you wouldn't have been able to do that with him.'
Best Gift may get his starring role next time out when the four-year-old targets the Queen Mother's Memorial Cup over 2,400m on May 7.
Rodd's double took him to 17 victories this season despite missing two months of it through injury and he is starting to forge a relationship with the Paul O'Sullivan-trained Handbag Premier.
Rodd won for the second time aboard the Zabeel gelding in the second race yesterday, and O'Sullivan believes he has found the key to the horse by giving him seven weeks between runs.
'Paul told me before the race he thought the horse was going very well and he thinks that he is basically a 1,400m horse and best kept fresh,' Rodd said.
'The plan was to ride him midfield but when he jumped so quickly and then travelled so well, I had no worries about being up on the speed. Later, as the pattern of the day's racing made it clear that being up there was an advantage, you had to look back at that and say it played a part but it was a nice win just the same.'