Racing

Moore to come from Werther

Hong Kong Gold Cup winner sets his eyes on the Group 1 Dubai Turf

Hong Kong's reigning Horse of the Year WERTHER maintained his perfect record over the Sha Tin 2,000m with a gutsy win in Sunday's Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup, as trainer John Moore confirmed plans to tackle the US$6 million (S$8.4 million) Dubai Turf over 1,800m on March 25 with the five-year-old.

Moore landed his fifth consecutive Gold Cup and a record 12th overall as even-money favourite Werther overcame a chequered season and significant trouble on the home turn under Hugh Bowman to wear down Tony Cruz's evergreen galloper Blazing Speed by a short head.

Dennis Yip-trained Secret Weapon finished third.

The winner stopped the clock in 2min 03.78sec, but clocked a swift final sectional of 22.10sec.

"It's a special win for the stable and for the staff," said Moore, who trained four winners on the 10-race card, including both Group 1s, with the handler also preparing the first three across the line in the Queen's Silver Jubilee Cup (1,400m) with HELENE PARAGON beating stablemates Able Friend and Joyful Trinity.

"I always thought he'd come back to his best, I was more worried about his quirkiness than his injury," he said.

"Winning the QEII like he did, it put him top five in the planet on turf, so we know that we've got a very special horse, but it took something else for him to win on Sunday.

ECSTATIC

"I'm ecstatic that we got away with it today, and had he not been interfered with, he probably would have won by a length or so, but that's racing and I'm now looking forward to Dubai with him. Hopefully, he doesn't do anything silly beforehand, though, because he is a bit quirky."

Bowman said that he had been mindful of the horse's fitness when plotting a path through the field.

"I was confident that I had the horse underneath me, but when Neil Callan (on Blazing Speed) went in behind Basic Trilogy at about the 1,400m, I raced without cover for most of the race," the Australian rider said. "Just being second-up over 2,000m, I felt I was on the best horse in the race but the other horses I felt had an obvious fitness advantage.

"And that's why I was inclined to wait as long as I could, and obviously the pressure built and built quickly and that's when I found myself in a bit of a precarious position at the home turn.

"But good horses can overcome a little bit of trouble, and he certainly knows where the winning post is.

"He's been a great horse for me and a great horse for Hong Kong."

In addition to Werther's Dubai Turf plans, Moore is also preparing Not Listenin'tome for the Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen over 1,200m on dirt for the rich meeting at Meydan.

He believes that he heads to the Middle East with a strong hand - a view backed up by Bowman, who believes Werther can become the first Hong Kong horse to win the 1,800m feature.

"I don't get too carried away with international ratings because it's hard to assess, but I don't think there's any doubt he's in the top 10 horses in the world on turf, this horse," he said.

"To beat a genuine Group 1 field here in the manner that he did, and to suggest he can only improve with it fitness-wise, if he goes to Dubai he'd have to be a legitimate chance, regardless of the field - as long as he travels over well and settles in."

Yip is also considering a Dubai campaign for third-placed Secret Weapon, although he says that April's QEII Cup is the horse's main aim.

"We still have to decide about Dubai, it's a possibility," he said.

"He's seven years old now, so I need to look at whether we have enough time for him to go to Dubai and then come back for the QEII. I'll check the horse, see what the timeframe looks like and then do what's best for him." - HKJC