One out, the other salutes

Trainer John Moore's contrasting fortunes in Hong Kong Derby lead-up race

It was a tale of contrasting fortunes for trainer John Moore's BMW Hong Kong Derby aspirants at Sha Tin over the weekend.

One of his two Group 1 stars in Saturday's Class 2 Snipe Handicap over 1,800m, a Derby tune-up, was scratched at the gates but, luckily, the other stamped his claim for the HK$18 million (S$3 million) feature with a tough win.

For Ruthven, winner of last year's Queensland Derby, it was his first success in Hong Kong.

But stablemate Rivet, the 2016 Racing Post Trophy winner, was scratched at the gates and will face a stalls test before he is able to take his place in the 2,000m Derby.

After being loaded into the barriers, Rivet became very fractious and kicked out at the back gates on a number of occasions, resulting in the horse getting his left hind leg caught up over the back gates for some time.

The Fastnet Rock colt was removed from the barriers and was scratched on veterinary advice.

"It's the ups and downs of racing, a mixed result indeed," said Moore. "Rivet has always had some poor manners in the gates. Today, he got the near hind leg right over the division between the gates which results in immediate scratching.

"He trotted up OK, but he will need to go through the gates again. I think he would benefit from gelding eventually, but back to the drawing board with him. He will definitely be a Derby starter if all goes well with the stalls test."

Once the gates opened, though, Moore's focus was on Ruthven. The Domesday colt settled third on the rails behind a moderate tempo set by Lucky Girl, with first-time rider Zac Purton allowing him to settle in a perfect trailing position.

Entering the straight, Ruthven was quickly out into clear air and was hard-ridden by Purton to chase the honest Sergeant Titanium, who had assumed the lead.

Nevertheless, it took nearly every centimetre of the 430m straight to wear down the front-runner, scoring by a head.

The David Ferraris-trained Patriot Hero, another Derby entrant, closed into third.

"He did what we hoped today. We hoped to get a bit more fitness out of him, more mileage into his legs and I'm pleased, even though he only just won," said Moore.

"The further he goes, the better, so he will appreciate the 2,000m of the Derby and he's another good chance for us.

"Still, he's another one who will appreciate gelding. He's still a little thick in the wind, so getting a bit of weight off will help him."

Ruthven will carry the colours of owner Albert Hung, who last year took Derby glory with Rapper Dragon. Hung's son, Kevin, will also be hoping to have his first runner in the classic with the Moore-trained Rocketeer.

"Rocketeer will trial Tuesday and I hope he'll complete our Derby line-up this year. I have no fixed jockeys as yet," said Moore. - HKJC