John Moore admits that rival John Size appears to have a stranglehold on Sunday’s Group One Hong Kong Classic Mile with his star two-horse team but is banking on the upside of his own four runners and nominated “under-rated” import Werther as his top seed.
Size’s Thewizardofoz and Sun Jewellery, both already rated in triple figures, stand out as a clear top two for the first leg of the four-year-old series and are likely to dominate betting for the HK$10 million feature.
Two years ago, Moore was in a similar situation to the one Size finds himself in, with Able Friend and Designs On Rome, and the two future stars went on to dominate the age-group events, filling the quinella places in all three races.
Yet Moore said Werther, along with Consort, Basic Trilogy and, to a lesser degree, Dashing Fellow, are all on the rise, giving him some hope of surprising Size’s dynamic duo.
“Sure, it seems like he [Size] has a mortgage on the race. You’ve got to respect the ratings, and we all know who we have to beat. Those two horses have a gap on the rest, and the others have it all to do,” Moore said. “Still, three of my horses will be second-up and open to plenty of improvement on Sunday and Werther was very impressive winning first-up.”
Hugh Bowman rode Werther to victory on international day and he again jets in from Australia to take the ride on a horse that was only rated a 16-1 chance at his local debut.
“I do think he is a little under-rated and I’m sure he is going to be really competitive, his work leading into this has been exemplary,” Moore said.
Consort was already talked about as a 2016 Hong Kong Derby contender before even arriving with Moore – hype which had as much to do with the rumoured price tag paid by high-profile owner Pan Sutong than previous performances.
The grey was a touch disappointing first-up over 1,400m but jockey Zac Purton has stuck with the former Sir Michael Stoute-trained entire.
“Maybe we were expecting him to run a little better,” Purton said. “But it was a difficult one to assess; we knew he would improve a lot fitness-wise, and the track was a little bit cut-up. Then they went a little bit fast through the middle section and he isn’t used to a race being run that quick.”
Consort’s pre-race manners will come under as much scrutiny as his on-track performance on Sunday with a gelding operation awaiting the stallion prospect if he doesn’t behave.
“He is a bit of a lad, but it’s nothing unmanageable at this stage,” Moore said.
Moore said Victory Magic, with form over 2,000m in Australia, was another who would come into his own as the series progressed.
“He is only rated 82, so has a lot to make up on those top horses, but his run the other day was good, he was blocked when he went to make his run, and found the line well, Dashing Fellow deserves his place after working his way up to his rating but is probably the most exposed of my runners.”