Invincible Dragon took another step towards the big leagues with a win in the opening leg of the interport series but now runs headlong into superstar stablemate Able Friend in a Class One handicap on Hong Kong Derby day.
After Invincible Dragon scored a classy win in the Hong Kong Macau Trophy on Sunday, trainer John Moore revealed former Horse of the Year Able Friend would be a surprise entry in the 1,400m Class One for horses rated 95 and above in two weeks.
“I’m going to run Able Friend in a handicap with the Champions Mile in mind, he needs match practice to get back to himself,” Moore said of his seven-year-old, who has been winless in four starts since returning from injury.
“I want to get him fitter, and there’s a gap in the schedule, there’s simply no other races for him. We could just trial him but I would rather put him in a race with a top weight and have him really fit by the time the Champions Mile comes around in early May.
“I know he has had four runs back, but he spent nearly a year on the sidelines before that and a big boy like that needs work. He is a brute, a beast of a thing. We have to get him fit, he is sound and there are no problems with vet checks.
“So let’s get him fit, he has this run for March on the 19th, then the Group Two Chairman’s Trophy.”
Able Friend’s shock entry will throw the weights for the race into disarray with the gelding set to carry 133 pounds off his rating of 127, meaning that even if Invincible Dragon goes up seven points for his three-quarter length win, he will be getting 19-pounds off the five-time Group One winner.
Invincible Dragon has now won three of his last four and was on a one-week backup after a dead-heat second to BMW Hong Kong Derby hopeful Gold Mount last week.
The first leg of the annual interport series was again a one-sided affair with the home team dominating. Hong Kong-horses filled the first seven placings, and Macau runners filling the final five, with the six visitors among the last seven across the line.
For winning jockey Sam Clipperton, the win came a few days after receiving the news English jockey Ryan Moore will replace him on Moore-trained Booming Delight in the Derby.
Losing the ride on Booming Delight would have been a body blow for the 23-year-old Australian, but he clearly wasn’t letting it affect his performance, producing a lovely ride from a tricky draw.
“I approached the race with an open mind, as having the Macau horses there added some unpredictability, I wasn’t sure where I would end up in the run,” he said after Invincible Dragon beat home Simply Invincible and Romantic Touch.
“I jumped and eased in and when I found the back of Zac’s horse (Simply Invincible), he towed me right into the straight. His horse sprinted hard and I had to ask my horse to go with him, but he did a great job to stay with him.”
Clipperton said the added race fitness of a one-week back-up had been key to the victory, but in a way it also denied Joao Moreira another winner on his record eight-win day.
Moreira rode Invincible Dragon last week but had already been booked to ride Racing Supernova when Moore decided to enter the horse for a race seven days later.
With Clipperton unable to make the weight next start on Invincible Dragon, he saw the lighter side of the jockey merry-go-round.
“Maybe Joao will want to ride him next time,” Clipperton said. “He can make the light weight and I don’t mind riding Able Friend.”