Seasons change, times move on but John Moore winning feature races is as constant as the northern star and the new stable partnership with Tommy Berry can get off to the right start with Magic Legend in the HKSAR Chief Executive’s Cup (1,200m) at Sha Tin on Sunday.
Moore is a regular fast beginner each season so it comes as a mild surprise that he has won the traditional opening day feature only once, when Able Prince spearheaded a four-win blitz by the trainer 12 years ago, coincidentally also the last time opening day had a rain-affected track.
Berry and Moore have already collected a treasure trove of bigger races than the Chief Executive’s Cup together, but both will be keen to kick off their formal relationship successfully and the lightly raced Magic Legend will get every chance.
History shows the Chief Executive’s Cup as an event dominated by lighter-weighted horses and, with six of the seven runners falling into that category, it’s a trend that appears likely to continue.
Magic Legend made a tremendous impression as a three-year-old, winning in Class Three at his first appearance then stringing together four wins from four local starts before he was unlucky not to make it five.
Stepping up to Group company, Magic Legend was brought back to earth at his final two runs of the season but was far from disgraced behind Lucky Year and Thewizardofoz.
Magic Legend now drops back into Class One and this race will set up nicely for him as he has brilliant early speed but is versatile enough not to have to use it, something he showed last campaign.
Instead, Berry will camp behind the very speedy Fabulous One and Shamal as they keep each other busy in front, and Magic Legend will then be the one gathering them in after turning into the home straight.
Berry will be hoping the leaders can take him to the 200m before he presses Magic Legend clear to put a break between himself and any late closers.
Blizzard, Strathmore (Chad Schofield) and Southern Legend are all capable of finding the line well late and so is Seasons Bloom (Joao Moreira), who might prove the main danger.
Punters may overlook Seasons Bloom, trained by last year’s race-winning trainer, Danny Shum Chap-shing, as he ran in the Derby and is perceived as needing more ground.
But his Derby fourth came on the basis of talent rather than stamina, Seasons Bloom is more likely to make his name at 1,600m and it is far from unusual for talented milers to perform well fresh at 1,200m, especially with the pace on, as he should get on Sunday.