Leading big-race trainer John Moore won’t be surprised if reigning Horse of the Year Werther is beaten in Sunday’s Group One Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup but he expects the five-year-old to do at least enough to earn a trip to the US$6 million Dubai Turf next month.
Moore decided against the 1,800m race at Meydan with Helene Paragon but said that he has already cleared the trip with Werther’s owner, Johnson Chen, and all he wants is an invitation.
“I did enter the horse for Dubai, thinking it was a possibility if we got him going well enough in time and I think we have,” Moore explained.
“He has only had the one run back after injury, which was excellent, but his work has been good and I expect him to run well on Sunday. He’s very a clean-winded horse so it isn’t hard to get him fit.
“With respect to winning it, I do just think that there will be some more improvement to come out the Gold Cup, which is what I’ve told Hugh Bowman. But it’s not as deep as some Gold Cups and I wonder anyway if he needs to be right at his top to win it. In any case, I expect him to run very close and be even better for it if he gets an invitation for the Dubai Turf.”
If Moore seems only half pregnant with confidence in Werther winning the Gold Cup, that’s because he has a good idea of what the gelding has to beat – stablemate Designs On Rome, who is looking for his third straight Gold Cup and attempting to keep intact his record of having won a Group One in February every season since he has been here.
“Designs On Rome has worked the place down, his joints are really tight and I couldn’t be happier – he’s the horse to beat, in my opinion,” Moore said.
“Werther obviously has a tactical advantage that he can take a box seat run while Designs On Rome, we know you have to keep at him but I think he’s better in the blinkers and the small field suits him. I’m very upbeat about both horses.”
Werther worked with Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup runner Helene Paragon on Thursday morning and both got good report cards, with Sam Clipperton telling Moore he thought the Helene Paragon was even better than he had been before winning the Stewards’ Cup last start.
But Helene Paragon might have been fortunate to beat Able Friend in that race and Moore says the comeback champion is better again for Sunday and just about back to his top.
Able Friend also got a glowing report card from track work after grass gallops for the Moore contingent on Thursday down the Sha Tin back straight rather than the home straight.
“For the sake of their soundness, I prefer them to work there as the ground is more level than it is in the home straight,” Moore explained.
“Able Friend will be sharp enough for the 1,400m and everything has gone to plan. I thought he was unlucky in the Stewards’ Cup when he didn’t get clear room. All we need on Sunday is for Joao to show him open territory and he’s going to really take some holding.”
Meanwhile, Moore reported no physical issues with Beauty Generation after his Derby aspirant’s failure in the Classic Cup on Sunday.
“Everything is fine, I think the race just didn’t suit him,” Moore said.
“His owner wanted him ridden forward, he over-raced and the strong pace didn’t help horses up the front. With all of that, he didn’t finish it off. I think I’ll recommend to the owner that we ride him differently in the Derby, get some cover and let the race evolve in front of him.”