John Moore is already eyeing the 2017 Hong Kong Derby with Rapper Dragon, but the smart three-year-old will still contest the Group Three Lion Rock Trophy at a mile next start after a third win for the season put the potential star’s rating into triple figures.
The trainer was in a buoyant mood as three wins took him to outright fourth in the trainers’ championship after a slow start to the term and he wasn’t holding back with his assessment of Rapper Dragon after the Australian import went back-to-back with an impressive Class One victory over 1,400m.
Even though Rapper Dragon already has a rating that would see him easily qualify for the four-year-old races next season, Moore is wary of the horse gaining too much weight if put away for the term now.
“We might even give him two more runs this season, I’m worried he may get above himself in condition. He is such a good doer, so we want to keep him in shape if we can so he doesn’t get away on us,” said Moore, who said Rapper Dragon’s programme next season would be based entirely around securing a second straight Derby for the stable after Werther’s win this year.
“That’s the plan, peaking into the Derby. He is looking for ground – when he gets over 1,800m and then the 2,000m of the Derby, he is just going to coast along and he is going to pick up ground very, very quickly. It takes a smart horse to come back from a mile, come back to 1,400m and do what he did against these quality of horses.”
In the middle stages of yesterday’s race, winning jockey Joao Moreira was left scrubbing Rapper Dragon along to stay in touch with his five rivals as Packing Llaregyb took charge of apprentice Kei Chiong Ka-kei and pulled up to sit outside the lead.
That created the right type of pressure up front for Rapper Dragon, sent out 2.5 favourite, to show a nice turn of foot with his light weight and leave second favourite Blizzard flat-footed in fourth, before holding off Romantic Touch and Packing Llaregyb.
Moreira said Rapper Dragon’s demeanour had “totally changed” and that the three-year-old had become far more relaxed.
“When he first arrived, he was a bit cranky and difficult to deal with but the improvement he has made in that area has been amazing. He has taken a big step forward and it is showing on the track,” he said.
Rapper Dragon’s time of 1:20.52 was just over a tenth of a second outside the course record but even though it was early in the day, Moore correctly predicted that it would be a track that was running hot.
“I’m not even looking at the times today – it was impressive, but the ground was fast and the tailwind in the straight is helping. Put it this way, if it was at the Olympics we would be calling any records wind-assisted and they wouldn’t count.”
Dirt tracker Respect (Moreira) won two races later before Moore’s French import Invincible Dragon (Neil Callan) surprised at his Hong Kong debut to give Rapper Dragon’s owner Albert Hung Chao-hong a double.
Invincible Dragon, who came to Moore after a recent stable transfer from Chris So Wai-yin, was given a lovely ride from gate one by Neil Callan, who admitted he thought the four-year-old was “too fat” to run a race.
“I gave him an easy gallop last week and I thought he felt a little on the fat side and would need the run,” he said. “He surprised me with the turn of foot he showed given he is probably only 70 per cent fit.”