Zac Purton provided the update on returning star Werther when he filled in as “pinch-hitter” as the reigning Horse of the Year had his first trial of the season.
Purton will ride Beauty Only in the Group One Stewards’ Cup on January 30 but got the call-up from trainer John Moore to put the five-year-old through his paces in a 1,000m turf trial.
“I didn’t actually know I was going to ride him, but my name was down on the sheet,” Purton said, with the horse’s regular rider Hugh Bowman based in Australia and Moore also down under at the Magic Millions yearling sales.
“But I was happy to fill in, and the horse felt great. He was well in himself, his action was good, he moved well and his attitude was great.”
Werther hasn’t raced since a third in the Group One Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup and a suspensory injury in late August kept Moore’s horse sidelined for around three months.
Tuesday’s hit-out was a key one for Werther, who only returned to full work in late November and will tackle the Group One Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup less than a month after the Stewards’ Cup.
Facing a trial field containing some speedy types, Werther was outpaced early but worked alongside stablemate Designs On Rome (Douglas Whyte) in something of a two-horse trial, detached from the main field.
“They just went a bit quick for him early but as we got to the line he started to pick up,” Purton said.
One of the speedy types, Lucky Bubbles, looked in tremendous order as he stretched his legs out in front and jockey Brett Prebble was thrilled with the way the horse has come on since a second in the Group One Hong Kong Sprint.
“That was lovely, he is healthy and busting to go,” Prebble said of the five-year-old, who gets a chance for revenge against Aerovelocity on January 30 in the Group Two Centenary Sprint Cup.
Lucky Bubbles will carry five pounds less than recent Group One winners in the race, one of those being Aerovelocity, who trialled on the dirt later in the morning for Purton.
“It was all pretty standard for him this morning,” Purton said. “I was happy with him, he is a lot fitter than he was early in the season. Still, it is going to be tough for him giving away five pounds to horses like Lucky Bubbles next start.”