A week can be a long time in horse racing, so a year must seem a lifetime for trainer John Moore who 12 months ago was preparing his multimillion dollar import Helene Charisma for a Group One Hong Kong Vase tilt.
A year on from that race where he finished 21 lengths last, Moore will saddle up his five-year-old in the Class Three Ferniehirst Handicap (1,800m) at Happy Valley with the gelding yet to notch a win in Hong Kong after 24 starts.
Moore concedes his French import, who raced as Mont Ormel, has not gone close to reaching the lofty heights they had projected after plucking him out as a Group One winner, but believes he may have finally found his level as a 77-rater after reaching as high as 103.
“He’s been a big disappointment since winning the Grand Prix De Paris in France,” he said. “Coming to Hong Kong we thought he’d be an ideal Derby horse if he could cope with the environment, which it’s turned out he wasn’t able to and he’s found his way to here, slowly through the classes.
“There is some light at the end of the tunnel but now he’s in Class Three, he should be winning here.”
Moore has experimented with taking Helene Charisma to the Conghua training facility in mainland China in the hope a change of scenery could pay dividends.
There have been signs of life since his visit, running an unlucky third two starts ago before being blocked for a run when finishing fifth.
His lightly raced gelding Good Beauty will also go to Happy Valley on Wednesday after a vintage Douglas Whyte rails run sealed his first victory in Hong Kong three weeks ago.
Despite the $22 starting quote, Moore said he was not surprised by the victory at the time.
“I said to the owner, even though he was big odds, he definitely was an each-way chance because he did everything right going into the race,” he said.
“This time he is a much fitter horse, his work leading into the race tomorrow night has been exemplary, he couldn’t have done any better than what he’s done.”
This year, Moore takes three genuine winning chances to the HKIR meeting next Sunday where his superstar Beauty Generation will attempt to cement his place as the world’s best miler in the Hong Kong Mile (1,600m).
The master trainer, who has publicly floated plans to take his champion gelding to Dubai for a World Cup tilt next year, said he has put his tendency to “hang” in the straight behind him, saying a fresh set of shoes solved the problem following his record-breaking win two weeks ago.
“We all know Beauty Generation had some shoeing issues and bruised soles, for that reason he did hang, even though he broke the track record,” he said.
“He’s out on the track, he galloped on Saturday morning with my French riding boy who said he didn’t hang at all, everything was cherry ripe. We are going into the race with a very, very fit horse and he will be the one to beat.”
Moore also takes live chances into the Cup (2,000m) and Vase (2,400m) with Werther and Eagle Way. respectively
Australian jockey Hugh Bowman will ride Werther again with the pair combining for five of the horse’s six Hong Kong wins.
“Werther is really going well, his fitness levels are where we need them to be for the big race next week and I believe if Hugh Bowman can jump him away and be right in behind the speed, not giving a start away to Time Warp this time, I think he’s a live chance,” he said.
Eagle Way also set a Sha Tin track record when saluting two weeks ago and Moore said he was hoping for a strongly run Vase to give his galloper the best chance of winning again.
“We’ve tweaked a few things over the last three or four months and it’s just done wonderful things with this horse,” he said.