By David Morgan
Eagle Way set John Moore a quandary after swooping to an upset win in a dramatic renewal of the HK$4.25 million BOCHK Jockey Club Cup (2000m) at Sha Tin Racecourse.
The trainer had the proven stayer set squarely towards the HK$20 million LONGINES Hong Kong Vase (2400m), over two furlongs farther, in three weeks’ time. But that plan could be scrapped in favour of a 2000m back-up in the biggest race in town, the HK$28 million LONGINES Hong Kong Cup, a race for which today’s victor does not yet hold an entry.
“We haven’t decided whether we run in the Vase over 2400 (metres) or the Cup over 2000 (metres),” Moore revealed after the six-year-old scored under Silvestre de Sousa, a length ahead of runner-up Exultant.
“We’ll put in a supplementary entry for the Cup before deadline tomorrow and I’ll talk it over with the owner, Mr. Siu, whether we run. I’m hearing that the Cup might be an option worth considering.”
Following his stable star Beauty Generation’s incredible track record success in the Jockey Club Mile one race prior, Moore was bubbling upon learning that Eagle Way had clocked the fastest 2000m in Sha Tin’s history.
“This is the track record, too,” he called to his wife, Fifi. “We hold two of them – excellent. I feel like Lewis Hamilton today!
“The way they went early, it set it up for closers and that fell right into the hands of Exultant and Eagle Way,” he added.
Eagle Way’s time of 1m 59.30s shaved 0.23s off Glorious Forever’s previous record mark.
Pressure from the get-go
A frenetic early pace certainly aided Eagle Way and the Tony Cruz-trained Exultant, another with a LONGINES Hong Kong Vase engagement on 9 December. But it cost the pace-setters dearly.
Time Warp burst to the lead under Zac Purton, as scripted; the Joao Moreira-ridden Glorious Forever harried the leader, while Pakistan Star, under Karis Teetan, attempted to chase three wide.
All three faltered on the turn for home to finish last of nine, sixth and eighth, respectively, after Time Warp towed the field through searching fractions of 24.84s, 22.68s and 23.81s, clocking 1m 11.33s for the first 1200m.
“He had no chance today with Glorious Forever driving us mad like he did,” Purton said of Time Warp’s effort.
That early heat set it up for Moore’s “Eagle” to swoop with a closing 400m timed at 23.36s and seal the trainer a sixth Jockey Club Cup victory.
It was British champion jockey de Sousa’s first Pattern race win in Hong Kong.
“With that pace, I was pleased; I was niggling away but I always thought they were going to stop in front,” the Brazilian said.
“He doesn’t have early speed but he showed a good turn-of-foot and if the pace is decent on the day, I think he’ll have a great chance in three weeks’ time. I’ll be quite happy to keep the ride!”
Moore secured a treble on the day with the improving three-year-old Styling City taking the 1000m Class 3 dash. The handler clearly has his string in fine form and Eagle Way, the 2016 Queensland Derby (2400m) winner, is at his Hong Kong peak.
“Eagle Way’s like Beauty Generation in that he’s really hit his straps this season,” the trainer said. “We’ve tweaked a few little things and what we’ve tweaked have been the right things
“He has just been progressing: his second start, we saw him finish third; the next run the pace just didn’t suit and he closed to third; today, the way it was run, it was a different situation and he hit the line strong – 2000 metres and more is where he excels.”
Moore was also pleased with Werther’s third-placed effort given that the former Horse of the Year, successful in this contest 12 months ago, was having only his second start of the campaign.
“Werther just needed the run; he had a good blow when he pulled up and Douglas Whyte said he’ll improve three to four lengths on that run, so that puts us right in the picture for the Hong Kong Cup on 9 December. If he had run in the Ladies’ Purse he’d have been right in there giving this horse a race,” he said.
The handler heads towards the LONGINES Hong Kong International Races in confident mood.
“The European season is coming to an end and so are their horses, including those that might be coming out of Melbourne, and we’ve got horses that have been set for these races. They might not be as good but they’re going in in their prime,” he said.