In the race that used to be known as the National Day Cup, the newly named Celebration Cup showed that whatever it is called: the 1,400m Group Three in early October is the race where good horses return and whets the appetite for the big days ahead.

Visually it is obvious he has come back a stronger horse. It was way too short for him, but that's what top world-class horses can do - they adapt to anything
John Moore on Designs On Rome

Outside of the winner Gold-Fun there was plenty to assess, but easiest to spot was the highest-rated horse in Hong Kong and reigning Horse of the Year Designs On Rome storming home for third over an unsuitably short 1,400m.

"That was stunning, it was a real surprise and shows that he will be a force this season in whatever race he shows up in," trainer John Moore said. "Visually it is obvious he has come back a stronger horse. It was way too short for him, but that's what top world-class horses can do - they adapt to anything."

Designs On Rome's jockey Karis Teetan was thrilled with the return, but seemed to think he was just warming the saddle for the horse's big-race rider to return: "Tommy Berry has told me I can have the ride until the end of the month," he said.

Moore saddled up five runners and filled places third to sixth with Rewarding Hero, Flagship Shine and Secret Sham finishing behind Designs On Rome and last year's Hong Kong Vase winner Dominant tailed off last after feeling the effects of the firm track.

"All five of my horses will head to the 26th, over the mile, and Able Friend will come back that day too, and go into the 1,200m race," Moore said.

"Rewarding Hero was a brave run, Flagship Shine didn't handle the firm track either and I was very happy with the other two. Dominant has never liked hard ground, so you can forget he went around."

Failing to see daylight in the latter stages was eight-year-old California Memory, who finished two lengths away in seventh, with Tony Cruz eyeing a third Hong Kong Cup win in December with the popular grey.

"He wasn't tuned up for today, so I thought that was a great sign," Cruz said. "He only has one target and that is December - I'd love to win three Hong Kong Cups with him. He will be nine in January, so we can't expect too much more of him given the issues he has had. The most important thing for him was that he pulled up well, and he did. Let's see how he is tomorrow and we will go from there."

Tony Millard was left to rue the one that got away for Super Lifeline, who looked the winner with a lightweight before Gold-Fun burst free late.

"That was his chance today," Millard said. "I had him as good as I could, and he will go up a long way in the handicaps now. We will have to place him carefully."

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