Trainer John Moore was pleased with Designs On Rome's belated return from surgery in a Sha Tin barrier trial on Tuesday but will monitor the former horse of the year for any signs of lameness in the next few days.
Designs On Rome underwent arthroscopic surgery on both front fetlocks in May and while all of the other top-rated horses have already made their seasonal returns, Moore has cautiously eased his five-time Group One winner back into action.
Moore has chosen next Saturday's Group Two Jockey Club Mile as the launching pad for a shot at a second Longines Hong Kong Cup on international day, December 13, and even though Designs On Rome is something of the season's forgotten horse, the trainer expects a forward first-up showing.
"We got exactly what we wanted from the trial," Moore said. "He is in pretty good condition, now we just have to keep an eye on him over the next few days. You never know after a trial and of course there is going to be some soreness there, but up until now there have been no issues with soundness."
Jockey Joao Moreira gave Designs On Rome a relatively easy time in his 1,200m hit-out on the dirt, the five-year-old sitting back in the field and closing off out wide to finish midfield.
"He isn't at his best right now but you wouldn't expect him to be," said Moreira, who will reclaim the ride on Able Friend in the Jockey Club Mile with Karis Teetan again deputising for Moreira and partnering Designs On Rome before the Brazilian hops back aboard when the horse steps up to the 2,000m of the Cup.
Last season Designs On Rome returned with a surprising third over 1,400m in the Celebration Cup, producing subpar efforts in the Sha Tin Trophy over a mile and the Jockey Club Cup over 2,000m before his international day triumph.
"I can see him running home for a nice third or fourth behind Able Friend over a mile first-up," Moore said.