A searching turf gallop yesterday brought Dominant a pass mark ahead of the HK$8 million Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup on Sunday, but jockey Zac Purton's report to trainer John Moore stopped short of glowing.
Perhaps recalling the all-weather gallop injury late last year that ripped the heart from Dominant's season and left him going into the 2,400m feature off only two recent races, Moore requested permission to gallop on the turf yesterday. The Jockey Club acceded to the request, leaving the same option open for all Champions & Chater runners.
"He had a good gallop, a searching gallop you'd call it, over 1,200m with Zac on board and we were happy with him," Moore said, then sounded a word of warning for punters. "I'm confident he'll go close but Zac did come back and say there was still more improvement to come."
Purton said that it wasn't only Dominant had an enforced six-month break mid-season that was working against him.
"With all the rain around, it has probably been hard to prepare the horse for this race and Dominant might have been a shade underdone compared to where he would normally be. And he didn't have hind shoes on today, which probably made it tougher for him in the conditions," Purton said. "He pulled up afterwards and had a decent blow, so he'll come on again for the gallop. The horse has definitely improved from the Queen Mother Cup and gets into this race better at the weights, but he does feel like he's at a point where he's still on the way up."
Which could give Moore something to think about with Dominant, even after this race.
"We'll see how he runs before we look around for what our options might be, but it would be a shame to have to spell him until October and after so little racing this season if he's just peaking now," Moore said. "If he wins this, it would be great to have a target for him after it."
Perhaps Moore's best possible option would be a race like the Takarazuka Kinen over 2,200m in Japan on June 23 but he would need to win the Champions & Chater to think seriously about that.
A winner of the Champions & Chater on five previous occasions, including providing both the dead-heaters in 1995, Moore has claimed the final Group One of the term in four of the last seven runnings.
The trainer has topped HK$100 million in domestic stake money for the past two seasons after falling just short of the mark in the two prior, though for much of this season it looked like he would have trouble getting near it. However, Military Attack and Dan Excel have come to the rescue in recent months and Moore's tally sits at HK$87,578,900, with Sunday's Group One and the Group Three Sha Tin Vase giving him every chance of getting into the mid-HK$90 million by Sunday night.