Underdone Dominant throws down gauntlet
A well-timed push from jockey Zac Purton helped Dominant to a second straight Queen Mother Memorial Cup, but the win wouldn't have been possible without the groundwork of a magnificent training performance from John Moore.
Purton provided the finishing touches with a tactically perfect, then patient, and then desperate ride, but it was Moore who produced the horse for the 2,400m Group Three handicap off a limited preparation of just one run in more than six months.
Dominant had to do it the hard way carrying 131 pounds, and even though he was held up for a run in the straight, Purton's desperate riding may have made the difference as he held off hard-charging lightweight Willie Cazals (Matthew Chadwick) by the narrowest of margins in a head-bobbing finish.
Dominant won last year's race carrying 119 pounds with the benefit of four lead-up runs in the preceding three months, the last of them over 2,200m.
This time Moore was nursing the five-year-old back from a rare suspensory injury in a hind leg and was only able to use the 1,600m Chairman's Trophy nearly four weeks ago as a springboard, a race where the horse finished an uninspiring last. "This was far from the perfect preparation and it just shows you how talented this horse is, it was just his class that got him through," said Moore, who added the horse had also lost a near fore plate during the run.
"There's so much improvement left there in him for next start."
Given Dominant's limited preparation leading into yesterday's handicap, where he gave all but two of the capacity field at least 14 pounds, the performance was an ominous warning to rivals meeting him at level weights in the Group One Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup over the same distance in three weeks.
"He will be cherry-ripe and at set weights he is the one to beat," Moore said.
The budding combination of Purton and Moore continues to build in big races, it was the pair's third Group race success this season after two wins to Military Attack, and the duo are striking at better than 20 per cent overall this term.
Purton added credence to Moore's claim that Dominant would improve dramatically in his next start, saying it felt as though the stallion's fitness was giving out in the closing stages.
"He dashed like he was going to win comfortably and then felt the pinch," Purton said. "With 75m to go I felt like I was going to win by a length, and with 50m to go he was down for the count and I knew hitting him with the whip wasn't going to help him, so I was just trying to push him over the line."
Willie Cazals' trainer Tony Cruz felt his horse, who came from last in the run, would have won had he got clear running in the straight, while favourite Mizani (Richard Fourie) wasn't disgraced, running on for third.