Hong Kong – John Moore is bravely bullish that his stable warriors will deliver an eighth champion trainer title as he heads to Happy Valley for today’s penultimate meeting of the season.
“I’m really conﬁdent. I’m there with all guns ﬁring,” legendary Hong Kong trainer John Moore said at Sha Tin yesterday.
Moore heads to Happy Valley today having closed the gap to just one win on long-time premiership leader and defending champion John Size: the score stands at 74-73. The penultimate ﬁxture of a hard-fought season promises to be a cracker, with the two greats of Hong Kong’s trainers’ rank locked in a battle that could, as Moore has said, “go right to the wire”.
Moore has ﬁve runners on the nine-race card, Size has six. But 19 other trainers, with 97 horses between them, will also be vying for the spoils at the city track. And, again, on Sunday, the competition will be ﬁerce when the campaign closes out at Sha Tin with 11 races.
Moore knows how to execute a surging late drive: he took the 2010/11 trainers’ title with a last day onslaught, unleashing four winners to pip Tony Cruz by two wins. “I’m really conﬁdent,” he said. “I’ve got ﬁve runners on Wednesday (today) and all of them can win, as far as I’m concerned.
“They’ve all performed admirably in their previous starts.”
True Grit has been a ﬁne servant to Size this season and this four-year-old will attempt to win his ﬁfth race on the bounce in the Class 3 Sweet Orange Handicap over 1800m, in which Moore is set to saddle Tashidelek.
The Size-trained galloper has climbed 27 points in the ratings since a breakthrough win at the Valley in April. His four wins at the track have all been at 1650m but the gelding steps up in trip oﬀ the back of a rail-hugging shorthead win two weeks ago.
“True Grit is trying to win ﬁve in a row and I’ve always found that tough!” Size said. “The horse is ﬁne, his condition seems ﬁne; it’s just that when you aim for ﬁve in a row you can’t expect too much. I just hope he runs well and if he has any luck he might win, if not, he won’t.”
The Australian Hall of Famer has two three-year-olds returning to the fray today. Tornado Twist was last seen running third at the end of May, while Special Stars was given some downtime after placing ﬁfth on his last start back in early April.
He is set to contest a hot ﬁnale, the Class 2 Sun Jewellery Handicap over 1200m, in which Moore will oppose with Sunny Boy.
“Tornado Twist has continued to work, he just hasn’t had the racing,” Size said.
“He’s a back-marker so he needs a bit of luck because he doesn’t come out of the gates that well.”
Sunny Boy made a belated Hong Kong debut in April and opened his account the following month before ﬁnishing a good second last time. He heads to Happy Valley for the ﬁrst time.
“I bought him as a Class 1 horse to compete at Group level,” Moore said, “but being the big boy he is, we had setbacks in front and behind. It took painstaking time to right the ship but now he’s right. I think he’ll be very hard to beat.”
Special Stars returns for Size in the Class 3 Let Me Fight Handicap over 1000m, having failed to make the frame in four starts since a course and distance win in January. “Special Stars looked a bit tired so I gave him some time oﬀ ,” the trainer said.
“He looks in prett y good condition, it’s just that he’s ﬁrst-up oﬀ a break and these horses have been racing. It’s a 1000m race at Happy Valley and they go so quick that probably the horses that have got a race into them have some advantage.”
Zac Purton requires six wins from the ﬁnal two meetings to match Joao Moreira’s single season record of 170 wins. The champion jockey – fresh oﬀ a six-timer on Sunday – has enjoyed a rich partnership with Moore in recent months and the duo will team up with Tashidelek and with Touch Of Luck in the Class 4 Maverick Star Handicap over 1650m.
“Touch Of Luck will be a force to reckon with,” Moore said. “I think he’s a versatile type – we’ve had him on the turf here and the dirt. I feel that the little bit of cushion at Happy Valley will suit him down to the ground. – Hong Kong Jockey Club