World Horse Racing Round Up
A true Hong Kong star regained his place at the top of local rankings over the weekend, while another made a graceful departure into retirement at his birthplace in Australia.
As the Hong Kong season enters its final two months, this vibrant Far Eastern racing capital continues to fascinate, both for the high-quality horses it imports and the insatiable appetite for the sport displayed by locals.
Racing remains the biggest game in town, as it always was, even before professionals were first invited to join the ranks in 1971.
Werther is the horse who fought his way back to the top by winning Sunday’s G1 Champions and Chater Cup at Sha Tin, while Able Friend, a son of the Darley stallion Shamardal, slipped into retirement after winning 13 of his 26 starts in a brilliant career.
Both were important milestones for Hong Kong. Werther, a son of Tavistock, won the G1 Hong Kong Derby and G1 QEII Cup in his first season. He looked to be one of the best seen there.
Then, injury prevented him being ready for the International races last December, but he has since landed the Hong Kong Gold Cup and now the Champions and Chater Cup.
Trainer John Moore said that a conversation with jockey Hugh Bowman almost certainly led to a return to the winner’s list for the five-year-old. “When Hugh asked whether I would consider taking the blinkers off, I replied ‘Done’.”
“Werther relaxed so well in the race, and it now gives us the option of the Vase (over 2400m) as well as the Cup (2000m) next December,” he pointed out.
Moore also trained Able Friend, who is now set to retire to Stuart Ramsay’s Turangga Stud at Scone, New South Wales, where he was foaled. At his peak, he won the G1 Hong Kong Mile and also travelled to England, where he ran (unsuccessfully) at Royal Ascot.
Staying with Australia, the important G1 Queensland Oaks meeting on Saturday has been transferred away from Eagle Farm following complaints about the state of the track. This is a critical time for Brisbane racing as the G1 Stradbroke is scheduled for Eagle Farm on June 10.
In Europe, the G1 Investec Derby at Epsom is only days away, yet the Classic still appears wide open.
Whatever the outcome, the current crop of three-year-olds seems well up to standard, with the G1 Irish 2,000 and 1,000 Guineas having been won at the Curragh at the weekend by Churchill and Winter, respectively. Both also won the English version of those Classics.
The Derby famously uncovers the leaders of a generation rather than serving as a race that performs a coronation of the best. That comes later when the three-year-olds prove themselves against the older generations.