Trainer John Moore believes that, after years of trying to figure out enigmatic gelding People’s Knight, he has finally discovered the key to the Exceed And Excel five-year-old.
“He’s a dirt horse,” Moore said simply at Sha Tin on Tuesday morning (31 October), with People’s Knight making his second start for the season in the Class 2 Hebe Hill Handicap (1650m) on Sha Tin’s all-weather track on Wednesday night (1 November).
Moore had huge expectations for People’s Knight early in his career, with the son of Exceed And Excel winning three of his first five races, including the 2015 Griffin Trophy. He was once the stable’s early elect for the 2017 Four-Year-Old Classic Series – a place that was eventually usurped by Rapper Dragon – but struggled to find form, until late 2016.
For the trainer, People’s Knight – who has now built up a two-from-three record on the surface – has been a puzzle that has taken deciphering.
“It hasn’t been easy, but at this level now, his best form is on the dirt, I think we can see that now. He is out of a Dehere mare, and we have seen Dehere mares produce dirt horses before,” Moore said, speaking of Australian G1 winner Bollinger, who produced G2 Louisiana Derby victor Friesan Fire. “So perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised that he’s found his stride on the dirt!”
People’s Knight lands a comfortable win in a Class 2 mile event on dirt last season, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club
People’s Knight returned with a five and a half length seventh to emerging star Nothingilikemore on 22 October, a run that had Moore pleased ahead of Wednesday night’s assignment.
“His first-up run on what was a very firm track was good,” Moore said. “He had a little bit of a checkered passage, but it was a nice return, especially knowing that he can improve getting onto the dirt. He’s going to be very close, he’ll be the horse to beat I think.”
People’s Knight (123lb) meets 13 rivals in the nightcap, including stakes-placed Eastern Express (133lb) and Packing Dragon (133lb), impressive last-start winner Divine Boy (119lb) and Hong Kong debutant Salto Olimpico (118lb), a winner of the G1 Grande Premio Jockey Club de Sao Paulo over 2000m at Cidade Jardim in Brazil last October.
The Hebe Hill Handicap is the last of eight races, all on Sha Tin’s all-weather track, and comes up at 10.55pm. The opener, the Class 5 Tsim Mei Fung Handicap (1200m), gets the card underway at 7.15pm.