Fans got another good look at the future yesterday and perhaps even an early view of a 2014 Hong Kong Derby contender when the John Moore-trained three-year-old Able Friend produced one of the most impressive debut performances of the season, despite having had acclimatisation issues.
Six days earlier, a hard-fit youngster Bobo Dragon scorched around Sha Tin's 1,200m course like a Group horse for next season and Able Friend (Tommy Berry) just about matched that on the clock but in an entirely different circumstances.
"I had a big opinion of the horse but wasn't expecting anything like first start," said Moore after Able Friend spread-eagled the field in his Class Three debut. "He's had the two trials but he has done it pretty tough and came back after his trials and blew the house down.
"And it hasn't been so much a fitness issue with him, he just couldn't get enough air into his lungs. He's a big horse, with a big set of lungs and the heat and humidity makes it hard for him to fill his lungs when he isn't used to it. Especially here at Sha Tin, where we're in a valley and the air can be stifling. He did it pretty tough after his last trial so I backed off and gave him a light workload into this."
An impressive winner at Wyong just outside Sydney at his second start in Australia, Able Friend was yet another success for the close association Moore enjoys with Australian Hall Of Fame trainer John Hawkes and his sons, who also did the early work with exciting Flagship Shine and Secret Sham.
Berry said he had gone to the race expecting Able Friend to run well off his work, but the manner of his win was spectacular.
"I just questioned whether he'd be wound up enough for his first run because John doesn't like to push them too hard when they first get here," he said. "But when I galloped him the other day, when John put the winkers on, he made me confident. He ran right through the end of the work, and he's a big, robust boy, he felt like a nice horse."
Moore had hoped to run Able Friend again before the season closes out, but the ease of the victory might ensure the opportunity won't exist to do so.
"I'd say that win might take him out of the grade and there may not be a suitable race available in the programme," said Moore. "I did want to step him up to 1,400m for the next one, so I'll have a look and see what options there are, but there might not be any."