'World-class' Able Friend 'will climb to next level'
John Moore's stable star will strip a 'very fit' horse for the Champions Mile after warming up for the race by dominating the Chairman's Trophy
As far as "in between" runs go, it was pretty impressive. Able Friend's romp in the Group Two Chairman's Trophy (1,600m) not only confirmed trainer John Moore's opinion of his giant chestnut as being "world class" but also propelled the four-year-old into the upcoming Champions Mile as a possible favourite.
After a second to Designs On Rome in a memorable BMW Hong Kong Derby three weeks ago, Moore felt his 1,200-plus pound star required another run before the Champions Mile on May 4.
Set a tricky task in a six-horse field on a wet track, with jockey Karis Teetan standing in for suspended star Joao Moreira, Able Friend made short work of his rivals and cruised to a one and three quarter length victory with Packing Whiz just edging out Pleasure Gains for second.
"This was all about keeping him ticking over and now we will have a very fit horse going into the Champions Mile," Moore said after Able Friend stepped out into open class and justified his 1.3 starting quote. "I always felt he was a world-class horse, but he had to do that today against the older horses to prove he was up to that level."
After a four-year-old series that included a win in the Hong Kong Classic Mile and runner-up finishes to his stablemate in the next two legs, Able Friend paraded in forward condition, down 16 pounds in body weight from his Derby run and nearly 50 pounds on his season high.
"We can get the weight back on him before his next start," Moore said. "It's still a learning curve with this horse and getting him up to 2,000m made him a very fit horse."
When nominal leader Helene Spirit missed the start, it left Pleasure Gains as a surprise pacemaker and also meant slow early and middle sectionals - giving Teetan the task of getting Able Friend to settle at the rear, and then timing his run to catch the leaders.
Teetan said it was not so much a finishing burst of 21.68s for the final 400m that proved Able Friend's credentials, but the way the big gelding dropped the bit as the speed stalled in front of him.
"He knows it's business time when it is time to race, and he caught a big fly when the gates opened and I had to sit quiet on him because he wanted to get going," he said.
"He is a big horse, and to try and bring him back to you - it's a lot to ask of a horse like that. You can see how he ran in the Derby, he switches off behind them and only the really good horses can do that, you can have them where you want them and if you want to sit off them they will do that for you until it is time to take off. It takes a class horse to do that."
Teetan can provide a unique perspective on the progression of Able Friend too, having ridden the horse in his first two starts this term, including a Class Two win in late November.
"He is a length better than last time I rode him - he climbed to another level, but he will keep climbing to another level again," he said.
"It was a professional win. Everyone expected him to win like that, but the feel he gave me and the way he quickened - everything was just class."
When talking to international press in Dubai, Moore had floated a possible start in the Queen Anne Stakes over a straight mile in what is the opening race of the Royal Ascot meeting on June 17, but he said any decisions on overseas ventures would be on hold until after the Champions Mile.
"We will take it race-by-race - let's see how he performs and pulls up after the Champions Mile," he said.