A failed first barrier trial by expensive import Dominant, blamed in part on a firm track, has thrown a spanner in the works of John Moore's preparations for the up-coming four-year-old features.
Moore is renowned for finding the best Derby-eligible horses in Europe and negotiating purchases for rich owners. He has won three Derbies, including the 2009 race with Collection, who was rumoured to have cost connections US$2 million.
Dominant, a flashy looking black colt reminiscent of Moore's 2011 Champions Mile winner Xtension, has been touted as the best of the Australian's newest batch - but didn't stretch out in his 1,000 metres heat and was beaten eight lengths.
Stewards ordered he trial again to their satisfaction, and the trainer said he wasn't making any plans until he saw how the horse pulled up, with jockey Darren Beadman reporting he may have jarred up on the good-rated surface.
'We just thought it was a mediocre trial,' Moore said. 'But Darren was of the opinion he was feeling the ground. With a lot of sunshine and dry conditions lately, the track was very dry. A lot of the European horses would not have appreciated the conditions and not performed to expectations.
'When I bought him I knew he liked a bit of give in the ground, so it didn't surprise me too much to see him below his best. We will monitor how he pulls up, and if everything is right with him in the next week, I'll look at racing him over a mile in two weeks' time.'
Dominant arrived with two wins from six races in England, including a third in a Group Two event over 2,080m at his last start in July.
His lacklustre trial in the opening heat kicked off an unhappy morning for Moore as two other four-year-olds also failed their first barrier tests.
The 86-rated Spirit Soaring was tailed off in his 1,000m trial, beaten more than 13 lengths, while Packing Whiz (87) made the best impression of the three horses, but he will also have to trial again after missing the start.
'He trialled very well,' Moore said of Packing Whiz. 'He is a very relaxed individual and he took a couple of reminders once he got away from the gates, but he finished off nicely.
'We were quite enthusiastic about that trial and the conditions didn't seem to bother him. We can find a race for him in the next couple of weeks, provided he pulls up OK.'
Moore also had another Derby hopeful, Military Attack (89), withdrawn from his heat with a lung infection, but the colt still completed a track gallop.
The trainer at least has a couple of fit-and-well Derby contenders to consider with Smart Giant and Zaidan, who will both skip the Group One Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong Classic Mile in three weeks.
Moore said the pair would miss the HK$6 million feature at the Lunar New Year meeting in favour of the Hong Kong Classic (1,800m) on February 19.
'At this stage they won't be running in the Classic Mile,' Moore said. 'I don't want to bring them back in distance.'