It only took Karis Teetan four attempts on Designs On Rome to get the ride right but he finally did it in the HK$4 million Oriental Watch Sha Tin Trophy, sweeping around the field at the halfway mark to cause an upset with the former horse of the year.
Teetan had been aboard Designs On Rome at his first run for the campaign for the past three seasons, producing a fast-finishing fourth, third and sixth from back in the field, but he learned his lesson.
“Every time he’s been first-up, I’d ridden him and always made the mistake of riding him like it’s a normal ride and come too late. But I’ve looked at how Tommy Berry rides him and how he wins his races – when they ease up, he can go.
"Today the leaders slowed and I went around them so quickly,” said Teetan after Designs On Rome rescued John Moore’s international hopes with a dogged first-up win.
“There was no real plan to do what I did and it wasn’t probably the way to ride him today. John said to let him get back and come outside and finish the race off but we were expecting a much faster pace than we got.
"He drew inside but I took him back and out so I would have room to come when I wanted, then I could feel the leaders easing too much and I wasn’t going to just sit there.”
With Beauty Flame steadying at the 800m in front, the field packed up and Teetan was away.
“They weren’t expecting anything like that and I got around them so quickly that it made it very difficult for the other jockeys to try to go with him or make me work harder,” Teetan said.
“Once he’s in front, he is very hard to get past, he has plenty of stamina and he fights so hard. I guess it’s a surprise that he won but I did say to Mr Moore after his final gallop that I thought the horse was really well and ready for a good preparation.”
The issue for Moore now is whether Designs On Rome might be flattened off his big fresh run, as he has done before, when Tommy Berry takes the reins in the Jockey Club Cup next time.
“You always have to be worried about that and that was a hard run today – in the Jockey Club Cup I would have reservations about that, but he’ll be peaking international day,” Moore said.
“Look he got under our guard a bit today. I would have been happy with a good finish and a two-length defeat with the weight, over a distance that’s always been on the short side for him. It was a surprise but Karis saw the speed slow, took the initiative and Designs On Rome is still a force to be reckoned with.”
And Designs On Rome wasn’t the only old stager to serve notice he’s still here, with Blazing Speed (Neil Callan) the one who ran him to a neck margin, with a further neck to Beauty Only (Douglas Whyte) and odds-on favourite, Moore-trained Joyful Trinity in fourth.
“I thought Joyful Trinity should have finished closer – he got balked for room by Blazing Speed and had to change course,” Moore said.
“He wasn’t unlucky in the sense of winning but should have run closer and he might have to run again to see if we can get his handicap points up before going to the set weights.
"I might see if the owner is happy to run him in the Sa Sa Ladies Purse in two weeks over 1,800m.”
Blazing Speed is rising eight and his first-up run delighted jockey Neil Callan who said the Tony Cruz-trained warrior showed his attitude is still in the right place.
“He’s getting on and it’s great to see that he’s turned up and that spark is still there,” he said.
“All his work and training has been good but you still like to see it in a race. He’ll improve in fitness and, when you look at the run he had and the run the winner had, my guy has only had to run for 400m, he hasn’t had a gut buster, he’s had a good lead-up run.”
Beauty Only was very solid after covering ground but the John Size-trained Contentment was poor and Brett Prebble told the stewards the horse became unbalanced in his action during the race.