If only they knew. It seems John Moore’s Derby-bound duo Rivet and Ruthven are destined to be gelded after they run in this year’s race but they get a chance to make a case for maintaining their manhood in a crucial Class Two on Saturday.
The vast majority of horses at Sha Tin are castrated, with the constraints and testing climate making the training of high-maintenance and temperamental stallions problematic.
Rivet and Ruthven may have cost owners tens of millions of dollars after winning Group One races in England and Australia respectively but their disappointing performances since arriving at Sha Tin has them set to be “cut”.
“Both owners have said we can geld them, they will both be better horses as geldings,” trainer John Moore said.
While both Rivet and Ruthven have struggled to adapt to Sha Tin there have been glimmers of hope recently, particularly for the former.
“I’m sure Rivet’s fifth in the Classic Cup caught everybody’s eye and he keeps getting that little bit better with every run,” Moore said. “This race is just about getting him more focused and making sure he is as fit as he can be going into the 2,000m grand final.”
That grand final is the BMW Hong Kong Derby on March 18, where Ruthven is also headed after four unplaced runs for Moore so far.
With stable jockey Tommy Berry sidelined through suspension, Zac Purton gets the ride on Ruthven and hopes the four-year-old can live up to his looks and previous race record.
“He really stands out in the mornings, he is a classy looking animal,” Purton said. “It’s just a case of still trying to work him out at the moment I think. He came here with quite a bit of condition on him and needed racing. He has progressively got better from run to run, but he is running out of time with the Derby just a few weeks away.”
Purton pointed to Ruthven’s dominant win in last year’s Queensland Derby over 2,200m as evidence that the horse may just need time to build to his best.
“One thing about him is that he can definitely stay and the way the Derby field, outside the top three, is falling away, he definitely deserves his place in it. It’s just that the race may have come around too fast for him,” he said.
The corresponding Class Two has produced Derby winners in the past, with the race dubbed by some as the “Collection Stakes” after Moore’s 2009 Derby winner.
With a lack of lead-up races for his expensive import, Moore successfully lobbied to have the ratings band for the race extended to 105 points in order for the 101-rated Collection to run.
Richard Gibson also took advantage of the extended ratings band in 2013 when the 102-rated Akeed Mofeed won the race on his way to the Derby glory.
Seven of the 10 runners in the Snipe Handicap have Derby entries as they look to build fitness and boost ratings ahead of the HK$18 million classic.