John Moore may have emerged from last Sunday’s Classic Mile with the BMW Hong Kong Derby favourite in runner-up Werther, but a race earlier he produced another likely Derby type in Spanish import Helene Paragon.
A wild, wintery weather day at Sha Tin with shifting winds and plummeting temperatures meant the meeting was marred by odd performances and unusual races.
As such, many efforts need to be forgiven, and some of the better runs have a caveat beside them, but Helene Paragon shapes as a horse to follow as he aims to sneak into the Derby.
Helene Paragon, known as Sir Andrew in his past life, was trained in Spain but spent most of his career in France due to a dearth of suitable races.
By obscure sire Polan, a French Listed winner over 2,400m, out of a High Chaparral mare, Helene Paragon should relish getting to 2,000m in time, although interestingly he was restricted to a mile during his career in France.
It was over a mile that he produced his two best performances from seven starts, a fifth in the French 2,000 Guineas behind Andre Fabre’s gun pair Make Believe and New Bay - and in which he finished alongside Longines Hong Kong Vase winner Highland Reel and Europe’s champion sprinter Muhaarar - and a third in the Prix Jean Prat behind Territories.
There was little respect for his form last Sunday, sent out at 49-1, but his closing second to Friends Of Ka Ying over 1,400m, recording the equal fastest last 400m in 23.05, suggests he is well on track for the four-year-old classics should Moore aim him that way.
Whether he is good enough remains to be seen, but he is on the cusp of a Derby start now with a rating of 87 and he should only improve off what was his first run in six months.
In the Classic Mile itself, the Derby picture was muddied by the failure of Thewizardofoz and mixed efforts from others heading that way.
There is no doubt that Werther is the horse to follow going forward off his barnstorming, somewhat luckless second to Sun Jewellery and he will be hard to beat in March, but the surprising debut effort of Tony Cruz-trained Giovanni Canaletto rates a mention.
Giovanni Canaletto arrived with solid credentials, including a fourth in the Epsom Derby to Golden Horn and a third in the Irish Derby to Jack Hobbs, but had looked a well-sold commodity after a number of abysmal barrier trials.
He was sent out at triple figures, and justifiably so, but his closing sixth under Chad Schofield to be beaten five lengths was a good effort as he heads towards the Derby.
So often, horses can perform fresh before failing to reproduce that effort again, so it would be good to see him run up to that mark again in the Classic Cup before declaring him to be in the Derby mix.