A leading Hong Kong Derby hopeful will begin his trek towards the prestigious race, stepping out for the first time this season on Sunday as part of a meticulous John Moore campaign.
Moore, a six time winner of the race – including three in the last five years – hopes his Australian import Easy Go Easy Win can add to his list of winners that includes the likes of Werther, Rapper Dragon and Designs on Rome.
While only winning once in his seven Hong Kong starts last season, Moore believes the son of Savabeel has untapped potential, saying he cost himself two extra wins by racing greenly in the straight.
Regarded as a “run-on” horse, Easy Go Easy Win turned heads upon his arrival at Sha Tin, winning first-up over 1,200m as a $13 outsider in Class Three company.
Moore said the horse relished running first-up, and was primed for Sunday’s race after a strong trial last Friday.
“He trialled well leading into the race last season and won first-up from a good gate with (Joao) Moreira,” he said.
With former jockey Joao Moreira moving to Japan, reigning champion Zac Purton will take the ride, with Moore saying it is important to have an experienced rider on him because of his tendency to “hang out” when racing in the straight.
“He was a difficult ride, even for Moreira, pulling the whip through and into him,” he said. “He’s done everything right, he’s still a little bit timid I must say.
“Zac said he was a fraction timid and ran away from horses [in a trial] but going into the race I think he’s a real chance.
“I’m of the opinion, had he run straight he probably could have won three races last season instead of one.”
It is hard to miss the four-year-old's Australian form where he ran second to subsequent Group One winner Kementari as a two-year-old last year combined with two other placings before making the trip to Hong Kong.
“I had to have a second look and I went ‘that was Kementari, he ran second or third to Kementari’,” Moore joked.
While he will race over 1,400m this weekend in the Class Two Yew Handicap, Moore said he will be stepped up to 1,800m in his next start for a gradual build-up to the 2,000m Derby trip.
“He is a Derby horse, on the Derby trail,” he said. “I’m going into the race with really high hopes, he’s a first-up horse. The 2,000m will be no problem for him because he’s a hold-up horse and he closes.”
This path to the Derby is not unfamiliar for Moore, who stepped up 2009 winner Collection over the same distances before winning the feature event.
Moore bought Easy Go Easy win as a yearling in Australia for HK$2.1 million (A$380,000) before beating out Australian-based trainer David Hayes for his full brother earlier this year, paying HK$3.1 million for a horse who will also eventually race in Hong Kong.
While Moore expects his horse to go in favourite on Sunday, it will not be a walk over with the likes of last-start beaten fancies Citron Spirit and Morethanlucky out for redemption.
The John Size-trained Time to Celebrate will also present a challenge. The now five-year-old flopped in last season’s Hong Kong Classic Mile but had produced back-to-back Class Two victories before that.