Celebration time: Hugh Bowman waves his whip as Werther storms home
PICTURE: Masakazu Takahashi
Report: Hong Kong, Sunday
Audemars Piguet QEII Cup (Group 1) 1m2f, 3yo+
HONG KONG Derby winner Werther blew away a high-class international field for the Audemars Piguet QEII Cup on Sunday with a performance that stunned even the winner’s trainer John Moore and jockey Hugh Bowman.
After New Zealand-bred Werther had extended his trainer’s record for the HK$20 million (£1.75m) race to five by blazing home four and a half and one and a quarter lengths clear of previous race winners Military Attack and Blazing Speed, Moore exclaimed: “I never expected that.”
Bowman, regular rider of Australia’s champion Winx, was equally impressed, adding: “We saw a great turn of foot over a trip in a world-class race. That was breathtaking.”
On an afternoon distinguished by periods of hazy sun and heavy rain, the going was downgraded midway through the card to ‘good to yielding’, which probably helped Werther, who had soft-ground form in his native country and Australia before being bought by the Moore family, but might not have suited Aidan O’Brien-trained Highland Reel, the sole British or Irish contender.
Ryan Moore, riding December’s Hong Kong Vase winner Highland Reel from stall six, was also done no favours in the dash to the first turn, where – in a reversal of pre-race opinion that there might not be a strong early pace – he was among seven horses vying for the lead.
Brett Prebble won that particular race on Helene Super Star, while Highland Reel was shuffled back to mid-division and never got into contention, eventually passing the post in eighth place, just over ten lengths behind the winner.
Bowman, who chose to avoid the early rush, said: “The plan to was be in the first five but when there was pressure going into the first corner, I decided to make sure he was comfortable and in a great rhythm.”
Werther followed the Japan-trained favourite Lovely Day into the straight as they tracked the leader, Moore’s outsider of three runners Helene Happy Star, and although Joao Moreira drove Lovely Day to the front early in the straight, the writing was quickly on the wall, with Werther sweeping through to lead over a furlong out and drawing clear.
As Lovely Day capitulated, Military Attack and Blazing Speed emerged to pick up the pieces, but the winner had flown.
Moore, who had shown confidence throughout the week’s preparation that Werther would prove his worth in his first outing in open Group 1 company, said: “He’s taken the big step, so Hong Kong has got another champion.”
Werther will return to Sha Tin for the Champions Chater Cup on May 22, the last Group 1 of the Hong Kong season, over a mile and a half, before being given a break.
Also on Sunday
Sha Tin: Queen Mother Memorial Cup (HKGroup 3) 1m4f, 4yo+ handicap
DERBY fourth Giovanni Canaletto repeated last month’s Hong Kong Derby placing when a one-paced third under Joao Moreira in the Queen Mother Memorial Cup, won by Richard Gibson-trained six-year-old Ambitious Champion.
Formerly trained by Aidan O’Brien also to finish a distant third in the Irish Derby, Giovanni Canaletto was having his fifth race in Hong Kong since being bought to race for trainer Tony Cruz.
Having settled at the rear, Moreira made a move five horses wide against a steady pace before the turn for home, but Giovanni Canaletto made only moderate progress in the straight and was beaten three-quarters of a length and two and a half lengths by ex-New Zealander Ambitious Champion, ridden by Chad Schofield, and Anticipation, the ex-O’Brien-trained Newmarket Listed race winner who also races for Cruz.
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