One of the biggest racedays in the history of Brisbane was left with a distinctly Hong Kong flavour yesterday as John Moore, Zac Purton and Joao Moreira all left their mark on the first race meeting at the reconstructed Eagle Farm racecourse in two years.
After years of trying to win one as a trainer, Moore finally snared a Group One in Australia as an owner when Tommy Berry triumphed on Bryan Guy-trained Eagle Way in the Queensland Derby, relegating Moreira to second.
The three-year-old will now be headed to Hong Kong for a tilt at the 2017 Hong Kong Derby and Moore has flagged previously that the same syndicate that raced Dominant may buy Eagle Way.
“As a trainer, I’m usually quite calm watching a Group One race – I can have multiple runners and not feel the nerves,” an ecstatic Moore said. “But that was completely different as an owner. I’ve never been so nervous.”
Moore is set to be the trainer of Hong Kong’s horse of the year for the fourth successive season with Werther, who finished only second as favourite in last year’s Queensland Derby before his heroics this season since joining the yard.
“He has gone one better than Werther and we have seen what Werther has been able to achieve,” Moore said. “Eagle Way will be offered for sale, we will put him on the market and see him racing in Hong Kong next season.”
Moore elected to race Eagle Way in Australia himself in an attempt to qualify him as a Private Purchase after a Hong Kong client, for whom he purchased the horse as a yearling, failed to gain a permit and the trainer was left holding the son of More Than Ready.
After a handful of early runs in Sydney with Moore’s brother, Gary, Eagle Way was moved to Guy at the Gold Coast, who told him he thought he could win the Derby after Eagle Way strung together three minor restricted wins through December and January.
Although Eagle Way was already qualified for sale to Hong Kong, Moore gambled and left him there, and his first Group One win in Australia was the payoff.
“Bryan kept pleading with me to keep the horse here, he kept saying that he could win a big race for me with this horse and he has done a marvellous job. He was extremely confident in the horse and he has done it,” Moore said. “It is a great team effort – Tommy has ridden for me in the past with terrific success and once again he has risen on the big occasion.”
Purton landed the 1,600m two-year-old Group One, the J J Atkins Stakes on New Zealand-based youngster Sacred Elixir, and a Group Two on Cradle Me, while Moreira didn’t leave empty-handed either, taking out the Group Two Queensland Guineas on Tsaritsa for top Sydney handler Chris Waller.
Purton has a strong history with Sacred Elixir’s ownership, Raffles Thoroughbred Racing, for whom he won two Group Ones on Sacred Falls, and the impressive two-year-old by Epsom Derby winner Pour Moi left no doubt there would be Derbies in his future too with a hollow victory.
And for good measure, Hong Kong apprentice jockey Matthew Poon Ming-fai got one of the thrills of his burgeoning career, winning on a 100-1 chance at Adelaide’s Morphettville Parks track on his first day of riding in the metropolitan area.