Designs On Rome returned to his brilliant best yesterday at Sha Tin but trainer John Moore will eschew rich overseas options and said his superstar will instead stay at home in search of a second Group One Audemars Piguet QE II Cup later this season.
Back-to-back wins in the Group One Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup for Designs On Rome not only continued Moore’s remarkable record in the race, giving him an 11th victory in the 2,000m feature, but will be remembered as a tremendous training effort with a horse that has come back from arthroscopic joint surgery late last season.
The US$6 million Group One Dubai Turf just under a month from now at Meydan or April’s A$4 million (HK$22.16 million) Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick over the horse’s pet distance of 2,000m might seem attractive options, but Moore is steadfastly focusing on the lucrative domestic schedule.
“There are plenty of good races for him here and there's a big one on the horizon with the QE II Cup in late April and, three weeks before that, the Group Two Chairman’s Trophy provides an ideal lead-up,” said Moore, whose horse was a solid but non-threatening fourth in the Group One Sheema Classic in Dubai last year.
Australian jockey Tommy Berry, who partnered Designs On Rome for three straight Group One wins during the tough gelding’s horse of the year campaign in 2014 but hadn’t been aboard since, didn’t miss a beat as he again employed daring tactics on the backmarker.
Berry calmly settled Designs On Rome at the tail before setting off on his trademark early run around 800m from home, and even off a slow tempo, the son of Holy Roman Emperor was able to catch and go past his rivals, holding off stablemate Helene Happy Star by a comfortable length on the line.
“I have ridden him enough times to know when to start my run,” Berry said. “I have ridden him exactly the same way every time I have won on him.”
Designs On Rome had been unplaced in three runs so far this campaign and despite some detractors is clearly back on top of his game, with Moore giving credit to his stable staff and Jockey Club vets for overseeing the six-year-old’s rehabilitation.
“Everyone from the surgeon Paul Robinson to the stable staff has done an amazing job,” he said.
Helene Happy Star’s jockey Joao Moreira was thrilled with the five-year-old’s runner-up effort.
“He is getting a lot tougher and stronger and I wouldn’t be surprised if he grabs a Group One down the road,” he said.
Caspar Fownes-trained Military Attack denied Moore a stable trifecta with his third-placed effort, jockey Zac Purton lamenting the veteran’s lack of spark.
“I thought when he got the split he would go straight through,” he said. “But it’s been the same story all season, he just can’t go through with it.”
Fownes added: “He is still very tough and puts up a good show but he is not getting any younger, he has just had so many problems.”
Moore believed Dominant was unlucky in fourth after Ryan Moore was blocked for a run in the straight, while jockey Neil Callan said race favourite Blazing Speed was a touch disappointing in fifth.
“I had to make some use of him early, but in the past he has been able to do that, then get to a spot and relax, but then still give me a kick,” Callan said. “Today, he had his head down and felt a bit flat.”
Dan Excel faded to finish last after working across to lead from a wide gate but Moore said the horse was still likely to head to Dubai for the Group Two Godolphin Mile on Dubai World Cup night.