After weeks of The John Moore Traveling Show where the master trainer talked up his horses, talked down the others and just talked and talked and talked like he does before every big race day.
The talk is ninety percent psychology to stare down his opponents and ten percent Moore-tormouth, but, hey, as Cassius Clay/Muhammed Ali did for boxing, it’s great theatre and good for racing.
Today, the day of the BMW Hong Kong Derby, saw the twitterverse explode with talk about how this was no two horse race- Moore’s Designs On Rome and Able Friend- with trainer Tony Cruz throwing a spanner- and probably even a Spaniard- in the works by talking up HIS runner- Beauty Flame- in the big race.
Suddenly, the “two horse race” become a multi-headed temptress with the best-laid wagering plans needing much over-thinking along with over-looking and over-thinking every other race on what was a fantastic card of racing which had attracted visiting jockeys like Tommy Berry, James McDonald and Christophe Soumillon plus lost souls from the twitterverse who had arrived at the track hours before the first race- and were already looking for the nearest bar.
For those out-of-towners who might have been wondering about all the talk surrounding this “magic man”, well, they didn’t have to wait long.
Despite a nine-pound increase in weight since its last win and looking extremely difficult to settle, the David Hall-trained Gold Tartini, and favorite for the race, was given an extremely good ride- far better than some racing pundits failed to address- by Joao Moreira.
The horse seemed reluctant to travel straight as it wanted to look to his left with his head held high and it took everything for Moreira to first settle him and then push him out, hands and heels.
Yes, it was a lowly Class 5 race, but Moreira gave it a Group 1 ride which should have made the Stipes happy.
We certainly were as it showed just how much The Magic Man is doing to settle into Hong Kong racing, not fall foul of the Stewards while still doing everything to win.
With great power comes great responsibility, Magic Man.
Next, Zac Purton on Numero Uno oozed confidence to take out race two on the card on a galloper that looked magnificent, The Magic Man returned later for an encore before The Champ- Dougie Whyte- on the Richard Gibson-trained and Pan Sutong-owned Gold Fun took out the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup.
This season, Whyte has almost become the forgotten man of Hong Kong racing, but, as we have always said, he’s simply shifting gears with new career priorities in mind and, knowing him, all going according to schedule.
The Champ’s priority this season is obvious: Win Group 1 races.
To do so, one needs Group 1 horses, and, through no fault of his own, John Size, apart from Glorious Days, simply can’t provide them.
It’s never been the trainer’s strong suit, nor, perhaps, a priority.
But with Richard Gibson and the purchasing power of Owner Pan Sutong, Dougie Whyte is part of a team whose global ambitions will be realized within the next two years.
On Gold Fun, The Champ gave a flawless display and the respect he and Gibson share is obvious.
And, after watching him the night before as a guest on a television racing show, that same professionalism one sees on the track is translated off-track.
If he ever wanted a career in television- but why the hell would he?- it’s there.
While magic is something we all need in are lives and is often awed by it, it can, sometimes, also be a fleeting thing while total professionalism is something that lasts forever- like someone who has won thirteen consecutive jockey premierships.
Finally, after weeks of all the talk, we arrived at the time when action was needed in the running of The BMW Hong Kong Derby and where the team of John Moore, Joao Moreira, Tommy Berry, Able Friend and Designs On Rome took over centrestage.
Though it was a magnificent ride by Berry who made a sweeping move mid-race on Designs On Rome that left the leaders just standing there, let’s not take anything- NOTHING- away from Moreira on Able Friend whose magic to find all those gaps that opened up for him, and the head-head tussle down the straight between these two great stablemates- and, no doubt, friends back in their stables- will be watched and shown again and again.
Though it ended as what many had predicted weeks ago- a two-horse race- the run of third place getter- Dibyani, trained by Michael Chang and ridden by Zac Purton, looked, for a while, stealing it and with five lengths lengths between these first three and the others.
The race aside, what was great to see was Berry and Moreira congratulate each other and Michael Chang walk up to John Moore and shake his hand.
It was great build-up to a magnificent race and if sponsor BMW ever wanted to see another version of horsepower, they got it.