When Nash Rawiller scored on Secret Weapon in the Group Two Jockey Club Cup, he already knew suspension would prevent him from riding the horse three weeks later in the HK$25 million Longines Hong Kong Cup.
That leaves trainer Dennis Yip Chor-hong searching for a new rider and Zac Purton looks to be in the box seat to ride the leading local hope in Hong Kong’s richest race.
“We will discuss it with the owner and find the right rider,” Yip said. “But I noticed that Zac did not have a ride in the race today, so he might be who gets the job.”
Of the four international day features, the 2,000m race is the only one that Purton has not won, and now Rawiller’s whopping 10-meeting suspension that stretches through December could gift his fellow Australian a golden opportunity to complete the grand slam.
Secret Weapon may have stamped himself as a genuine big race contender but the contest also poured doubt on a number of established stars, with at least one of numerous flops in the race set to get a jockey change.
Joao Moreira will replace Karis Teetan on Designs On Rome in the Hong Kong Cup – rekindling a successful partnership from 2014 – but this time John Moore’s horse enters international day off what can only be considered as a disappointing run.
Designs On Rome, who received an all-clear from vets post-race, was enormous first-up in winning the Group Two Sha Tin Trophy and Moore is hoping that his horse’s last-placed effort was a case of “second-up syndrome”.
“We’ve seen it before, after a big first-up run, he can run flat second-up, as long as he is sound we know he can run well on the big day,” Moore said. The trainer and Teetan also pointed to a race structure that worked against the back-marker.
Moreira had already jumped off Military Attack before he returned to the enclosure, literally, as the eight-year-old pulled up lame following his game third – the horse’s immediate racing future in doubt.
“We just to have a look at him now and see where the injury is, the foot or the suspensory again,” trainer Caspar Fownes said.
Helene Happy Star was fourth after leading at a solid clip, while jockey Neil Callan was defiant about Blazing Speed’s chances on international day despite a disappointing fifth. “He’ll be there in the big one,” he said.
The question for many about Secret Weapon is a simple one – whether or not the winner of six from 19 is good enough to take out an international Group One.
Rawiller was firmly in the affirmative. “I think he is good enough and he is hitting his best form at the right time,” he said.
Yip said it was important not to judge Secret Weapon in terms of being a five-year-old and consider the gelding had spent nearly a year sidelined with a tendon injury shortly after arriving.
“He is very lightly raced, and being a northern hemisphere import he would always take a little time to mature and find his best,” Yip said. “Maybe this is his time.”