He might not have landed the Group Three Ladies’ Purse at Sha Tin on Sunday, but the John Moore-trained Helene Paragon was the story of the race as the rising star everyone saw last season was back as big as ever and ready to take on the world next month with a new rider in Hugh Bowman.
Even Moore admitted that he had been lukewarm on Helene Paragon’s two starts this season, finishing nearer last than first, and because of them he switched course with the four-year-old stallion to Sunday’s 1,800m feature - a race that rarely showcases international prospects - where a record Ladies’ Purse Day crowd of more than 83,000 saw him roar back into Hong Kong Mile contention.
“I never intended to run him here but he’s an entire who does very well in the stable and I thought maybe he just needed more racing to switch him on again and I was looking for an indication. Well, I’d say after that run that he’s back on track,” Moore said.
“I’m delighted. He had to be ridden back from the bad draw and with the big weight and then to get to the line the way he did was tremendous. His jockey Zac Purton told me he got held up a little but it didn’t cost him the race, the horse just bottomed out for fitness in the last 50m.”
The flashing finish failed by three-quarters of a length to peg back the Tony Millard-trained Horse Of Fortune (Karis Teetan), conceding him 13 pounds, but Helene Paragon will be better suited racing under set weights terms in two weeks’ time.
“He’ll go home and eat up after that and needs the racing so he’ll drop back to the Jockey Club Mile on November 20 then three weeks into the Hong Kong Mile. Zac’s committed to Beauty Only and Joao Moreira to Sun Jewellery so I’ve just quickly rung Hugh Bowman and he will come and ride Helene Paragon in both,” Moore confirmed.
While all eyes were on Helene Paragon, Horse Of Fortune gave his trainer a third Ladies’ Purse and back-to-back victories after winning with Top Act last year and the South African has international ideas of his own, with the Hong Kong Cup over 2,000m in mind.
“We can look at the internationals if the owner’s happy to go,” Millard said. “But if Maurice shows up, well that might be tough. We tried Horse Of Fortune at the end of last season in the QEII Cup but he wasn’t at his best that day, so we’ll see.”
The winner likely goes to the Jockey Club Cup on November 20 to test the waters and Teetan says there’s no reason why the gelding won’t handle the step up in trip and that he still has upside, despite being a six-year-old.
“The South African horses take so long to get here with all the travel and quarantine that it can take them quite a while to adapt,” Teetan said. “This horse put it together in the second half of last season and has kept improving. I don’t think 2,000m is a problem – he can put himself on the pace and puts his head down once he gets there and goes easily and then he is hard to get past.”
Millard too will be looking for a rider as Teetan is committed to Designs On Rome in the Jockey Club Cup.
Behind the placings, Moore was pleased enough with Helene Happy Star, who is headed towards the Hong Kong Vase despite dropping out to last.
“He needs to get miles in his legs for the 2,400m, like we used to do with Dominant, so he runs again in the 2,000m on November 20 and Moreira rides him,” Moore said.
“Whether Joao rides him after that we’ll see – Joao has all kinds of offers in the internationals with the Japanese stayers.”
Tony Cruz also has Vase ambitions Helene Super Star (13th) and Anticipation, who ran an excellent fifth after a tough run under Craig Williams.
“I wasn’t too happy with how he was ridden. Craig took him too far back then tried to go right around the whole field,” Cruz said. “We haven’t seen the best of this horse yet.”