Trainer John Moore believes his annual northern hemisphere legwork this season may even produce 'a better collection' than his Derby-winning group last term, headed by one of the most expensive private purchases in Hong Kong history.
'Not a better actual 'Collection', but a better collection of new imports even than I had last year,' Moore (pictured) chuckled yesterday. 'It would be hard to top Collection, but in terms of the horses I've bought, I am thrilled. There is a lot of homework and a lot of travelling involved, but the results have been coming and, after the success I've had with these European horses, people seem to be coming out of the woodwork with big dollars to buy them.'
Moore's northern hemisphere forays in recent seasons have snared two Derby winners and proved pivotal to the major events, and the rumour mill is working overtime about the price tag of German 2000 Guineas winner, Irian, for prominent owner Siu Pak-kwan.
Unconfirmed reports suggest US$2 million was the price, but Moore would not comment, saying only the colt from the family of Urban Sea - and thus this year's super colt Sea The Stars - was the second most expensive horse he had ever bought.
'Normally I would not be looking at German horses, but this one caught my eye when he went to Chantilly and Deauville recently and ran very well in top-class company,' Moore said. 'I had bumped into Mr Siu at the sales in Sydney earlier this year and we got talking and one day the phone rang and he asked me to buy him a horse.'
Siu owns Evergreen Farm stud in Australia and it is understood he wanted a potential stallion as well as a top-class racehorse.
'I believe Irian has a great temperament, he's very well bred and will be an ideal Derby horse, provided he acclimatises,' Moore said. 'But I've got other horses I'm very happy with too - Berouni, Hartley, Flying Answer, Ask Frank.'
Moore said lightly raced Berouni was almost an accidental find after he had been chasing stablemate Cashelgar, runner-up in the Hampton Court Stakes at Royal Ascot - the race Collection won last year.
'Berouni ran second to Cashelgar in France and then when I found out he was by Peintre Celebre, sire of Collection and Helene Mascot, I asked my agent to look at him,' Moore said.
'He's a very similar type to Collection. They said he wasn't for sale but I named a price and he was. I've bought Hartley for Rusy Shroff and he's a horse who has progressed and progressed in England. He ran second at Goodwood behind a very nice horse called Zacinto who ran a good second the other day to Delegator, the Godolphin colt who finished second to Sea The Stars in the 2000 Guineas, so I think I'm on the right track.'
The trainer said he was already ahead of last year's Private Purchases in terms of numbers but the chase is not over yet. 'There might be two more trips back to England yet and I have a couple more big horses I'm chasing, which I'm told are not on the market but hopefully their owners will change their minds,' he said.
'If I can keep replenishing my stocks of these kinds of horses every year then we're going to have a big hand in the major races every year.
'Frankly, I'm nearly sick of flying back and forward to Europe but making the effort has made a big difference. From having just a mediocre team in the top grade not so long ago, I've become a major player by doing the hard work and going there and getting the right horses.'