John Moore has endured the typical trainers’ championship hangover through the first half of the term but the trainer believes an “auspicious” Lunar New Year double could be the catalyst for a more successful second stanza in season 2015-16.
Yesterday’s fixture marked the midpoint of the season, one that had not only garnered just 15 wins for Moore, but has seen the handler’s best horse Able Friend sidelined indefinitely through injury and a replacement of the stable’s assistant trainer.
“Today is all about changing fortunes, and two wins at this point of the season is very important,” said Moore, who said an application for former jockey Terry Wong Chi-wai to become his new assistant trainer would be put before the licensing committee next week. “The stable is restructuring, and we are hoping we can pick up through a good back half of the season but also the start of next season as well.”
Moore said the early season downturn was “a simple case of mathematics” as horses pushed to help win last year’s title struggled at their exposed ratings, with the trainer offering his first winner for the day, Chevalier Star – a two-time winner late in his title push – as a perfect case in point.
“Horses are starting to get down in the handicaps and they are hitting a bit of form,” he said, with Chevalier Star getting a drop from 67 at the start of the season to 64 for yesterday’s all-the-way victory under visiting jockey Corey Brown. “To win a premiership, you’ve got to pump horses right up and elevate them to the highest rating they can reach. That means you start the season with many of them on a mark where they can’t go any further.
“There had to be a readjustment to see them become competitive again at the ratings, and that’s what is happening now. Chevalier Star, and a few of the other horses, are getting to a mark where they are going to start winning some races.”
Owner Martin Siu Kim-sun had already tasted success earlier in the day when Thewizardofoz dominated in the Chinese New Year Cup and obviously the feng shui was flowing in the right direction when Ashkiyr returned to the winners’ enclosure for the first time in more than two years, and just the second time overall.
“It’s been a long time between drinks,” Moore said of a horse that has dropped almost 40 points from a peak rating of 101 down to the bottom of Class Three.
Moore said Ashkiyr should have won last start and with Joao Moreira in another awkward position at the top of the straight, it seemed luck would again work against the seven-year-old.
After going back to the tail from a wide barrier, and turning for home last, the Brazilian managed to extricate Ashkiyr from the potential traffic jam with 300m to go and hold off race favourite Easy Hedge late.
“John wasn’t very happy with me last time, I got blocked for a run, but this time I got the luck and maybe one or two other horses didn’t,” Moreira said. “Still, he is a backmarker – those type of horses need luck. He didn’t get it last time, he got it today.
“John has been telling me I need to tell some lies to this horse – that I need to be telling him he is a really good horse. I’ve been trying to, but I don’t think the horse believed me before. Maybe today, he did.”