John Moore hoping for that elusive overseas title
There's no Makarpura Star or Viva Pataca, but the trainer knows Military Attack and Dan Excel are drawn to taste international success
Seventeen years ago, John Moore led in the winner of today's Sha Tin feature, the ATV Cup. Nothing particularly surprising about that except Makarpura Star's victory at his first start for five months was the end of the beginning of a personal quest for Moore that has led him to the Singapore Airlines International Cup tomorrow and an overseas feature victory so close he can taste it.
"Yes, Makarpura Star was the first horse I ever went overseas with - he was a real turning point for me. A really top-class horse and one of the best horses of my early career," said Moore, reflecting on the horse who won, in a brilliant 13-month period, the Derby, two Gold Cups and the Champions & Chater Cup, despite an aborted trip to Melbourne that set the tone for some of the many frustrating foreign sorties since.
"He went to Caulfield and ran in the Coongy Handicap, a Group Three but it was to be his lead in to a Group One, the Mackinnon Stakes during Melbourne Cup week. He ran a terrific race, a close third, and it was a great start. But then he had some lung problems, we had to abort and bring him home. He was too good to risk."
The horse returned to win the ATV Cup, then his second Gold Cup, and Moore learned whatever lessons he could from the trip.
"It wasn't an easy thing in those days, taking a horse away like that. You made mistakes, but you were better for the experience," Moore said. "Nowadays, it's become finely tuned taking horses overseas."
Since Makarpura Star, Moore has taken dozens of horses to major events in Australia, Japan, Dubai and England, and perhaps the unifying experience has been how difficult it is to win Group Ones in someone else's back yard. It's an achievement Moore would dearly love to have to round out his successful career before compulsory age retirement arrives in a couple of years, and the clock is ticking ever louder.
There have been the near misses - runner-up twice with Super Kid in Group Ones at Caulfield; runner-up in last year's Singapore Cup with Zaidan and, of course, Viva Pataca's second to Sun Classique in the Dubai Sheema Classic, when even the world's bookies thought he was the one to be on.
"When I took Viva Pataca to Dubai, I really thought he was a live chance but we struck that filly on a night when she was just extraordinary," Moore said.
"But I'm feeling even better going into this race with Military Attack and Dan Excel. I think this is the best chance I've ever had to win a big race in another jurisdiction.
"Both coming off Group One wins, in top form - not at the end of their programme - and now they've drawn gun gates. Viva was in fantastic form before he went to Dubai. He had all the same boxes ticked, except the draw. He drew wide. These two have everything."
After initially causing some minor concern over their appetites on arrival, first Dan Excel and then Military Attack have returned to normal eating habits.
"It wasn't like when we brought Inspiration here for the sprint - he just put his backside in his manger and went to pieces," Moore said.
"But, like most animals in a new environment, these two were probably just having a bit of a look around the stable than thinking about their manger, but over the past few days, they're back to normal and when I looked in on Military Attack before Thursday's work, he'd just about eaten everything in his bin."
And, as if to add their own opinion to the trainer's view, Dan Excel and Military Attack showed off just how healthy they were feeling during that trackwork.
"You could see watching on the big screens, over the back of the track both were having a bit of a buck, which shows they're doing well," Moore said.