John Moore came away from the major races empty handed but was thrilled to have yet another Hong Kong Derby contender on his hands after Eagle Way “did a Werther” and won on his local debut.
The international day undercard has a habit of revealing future stars and 12 months ago it was Werther winning a 1,600m Class Two before going on to capture the 2016 BMW Hong Kong Derby, Audemars Piguet QEII Cup and subsequent horse of the year honours.
The parallels between Werther and Eagle Way don’t stop with their impressive first-up Class Two victories either – both horses arrive after running in the Queensland Derby, and both were ridden by Hugh Bowman first-up after Joao Moreira knocked back the rides.
While Werther was second in Brisbane, Eagle Way won it, and Moore said the rangy chestnut was well on his way to being a contender over longer trips.
“He is just an out-and-out stayer this guy,” Moore said. “The mile is a minimum requirement for him, and it was a great sign for him to run like that first-up.”
Moreira opted to stick with Western Express, who finished unplaced, but Moore said putting blinkers back on the four-year-old was crucial.
“The horse was ready to go today,” he said. “Joao trialled him and wasn’t too impressed, but that was without blinkers and he really needed them.”
Pakistan Star was beaten for a third straight start as odds-on favourite, although this time finished unplaced.
Tony Cruz has been consistent in his complaints about Pakistan Star’s treatment by the handicapper but had a new angle post-race on Sunday.
“Eagle Way is rated 93 and my horse is rated 91,” Cruz said. “The winner has won four times in Australia, and won a Derby already, my horse has raced four times coming into today and is somehow rated two points behind him.”
Still, Cruz was happy with the progression of another of his charges that could be Derby-bound, 1,400m Class Three winner Winner’s Way.
“He is going places, if you watch him today he was lost all down the straight and still wants more than 1,400m,” Cruz said.
It was a rough day for those taking odds-on about favourites – but John Size-trained sprinter Mr Stunning at least did the right thing when he saluted at 1.6 and pushed his rating into the 90s.
Mr Stunning drew wide but Moreira opted to lead on a horse with brilliant gate speed that had yet to unleashed on raceday.
“It wasn’t necessarily the plan for him to lead, but he jumped so well it made sense for Joao to take him to the front,” Size said. “Last season when he was exposed like that he wanted to get a bit keen. Today he didn’t, he saved his energy and showed he has learnt a bit from last season. Now we just need to find another Class Two for him.”
Jing Jing Win went down as the shortest-priced pick of the day, the winner of his first two races rolled as 1.3 favourite.
“Not much went right, he was inside horses and wasn’t too sure of himself and before the race he got quite a bit hotter than before his other two runs, “ trainer David Hall said.