The John Moore-trained Packing Ok lived up to his early promise yesterday with a breakthrough Group Three win in the Centenary Vase (1,800m), but his trainer fears the hard work will begin now.
Packing Ok (Darren Beadman) got a perfect trip throughout the race to pounce on the lead inside the 200m and turn the tables on runner-up Pure Champion (Gerald Mosse), who had got over the top of him in the January Cup at Happy Valley.
Packing Ok again got first run on the Tony Cruz-trained topweight, but the five-pound turn-around in the weights was enough to see him prevail by the same half-length margin by which he had been defeated last time, with Sapelli (Douglas Whyte) just nosed out of second.
'That's great. He has always looked like a horse with a decent race in him and today looked like one that he could win. He got the right pace, the ideal ride from Darren and he was well weighted with respect to Pure Champion from the last run at the Valley and it all fell into place,' said a delighted Moore, who had won the race four times previously, with Mighty High and Beadman 12 months ago, and with Stingray (1989), Survey King (1996) and Super Kid (2006) before that.
All of those horses were already or became Group One performers, but Moore has reservations about where Packing Ok sits in the overall scheme of things.
'He won't have any options now but to run in the Gold Cup and those sorts of Group One races and to my mind he's just two or three lengths behind the very best ones,' Moore said. 'He's going to run his good fourths or fifths, and he can pick up some good prize money doing that, but he's going to be tough to place where he can win.'
Beadman said he thought Packing Ok might have a future over even further than the 1,800m, which opens the way to the Group Three Queen Mother Memorial Cup (2,400m) in early May.
'When John Hawkes trained him in Australia he felt Packing Ok would make into a Group horse, so his judgment has been spot on,' Beadman said.
'He showed that early potential and was able to win 1,400m first-up here like a decent horse, but I do think he is still improving. I think he's going to be one of those very solid horses that just gets better with age. He took everything in his stride and got into a rhythm, nice and relaxed. He has won 2,200m at Happy Valley already and he feels like he'll get 2,400m so the Queen Mother under handicap conditions looks the right sort of target for him.'
Mosse said Pure Champion might have been better suited by the more forgiving ground of Happy Valley last time but tried bravely with the 11-pound weight difference and he was not disappointed.
'I think he is a horse who seems to be getting better lately and he tried hard with the weight,' he said.
Like Packing Ok, the Cruz-trained gelding is expected to make his next appearance in the Citibank Hong Kong Gold Cup on the 26th of this month over 2,000m.
The only four-year-old taking a path to the Derby through the race, Beauty Lead, made some improvement on his debut to be beaten 31/2 lengths in fifth in the small field, with the quinella from the 2010 Derby, Super Satin and Super Pistachio, the only runners to finish behind him.