John Moore’s reputation as a big-race trainer just keeps growing as Helene Paragon, Joyful Trinity and Able Friend were the first three across the line in Monday’s Group One Stewards’ Cup at Sha Tin.
While sentiment was with the old champ Able Friend, the money came for Helene Paragon, who was heavily backed and started a 3.15 favourite.
Derek Leung Ka-chun set a solid tempo aboard Beauty Flame, setting the race up for those in the second half of the field and that’s where the placegetters came from.
When Tommy Berry was getting busy on Helene Paragon at the top of the straight, Joao Moreira was having no luck with Able Friend, balked for a run on two occasions.
While his stablemate kicked away and Joyful Trinity (Gerald Mosse) ran on strongly, Able Friend only found room late and savaged the line to grab third from Contentment.
He didn’t win the race, but fans will be pleased to know the Beast from the East is back.
But all honours were with the winner, who was unlucky in the Hong Kong Mile last start and deserved a Group One victory.
Earlier in the day, underrated speedster Peniaphobia has upstaged odds-on favourite Lucky Bubbles to capture the Group Two Centenary Sprint (1,200m).
Neil Callan took the Tony Cruz-trained veteran straight to the front, dictating the race and it proved the difference.
Brett Prebble settled Lucky Bubbles fourth in transit but couldn’t bridge the gap down the straight, finishing in second.
John Moore’s Not Listenin’tome came home third, while dual Hong Kong Sprint champion Aerovelocity looked to have an issue and was eased out of the concluding stages of the race.
The six-year-old Peniaphobia has now won nine of his 29 starts, collecting over HK$39 million in prizemoney.
There was a huge crowd of around 80,000 at Sha Tin to welcome in the Lunar New Year.