Moore’s charting a rare course for Rocketeer via the Sa Sa Ladies’ Purse

Rocketeer will test his mettle in the Group 3 Sa Sa Ladies’ Purse Handicap (1800m) at Sha Tin racecourse on Sunday as trainer John Moore seeks a guide as to whether or not the four-year-old will pursue an uncommon route to the BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) in March.

The Australian import was among last week’s first stage nominations for December’s LONGINES Hong Kong International Races, with entries for the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Vase (2400m) and the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup (2000m).

“Rocketeer’s already been well-seasoned, so yes, definitely, he’s under consideration for the upcoming international races,” Moore said.

“I did a dual entry for the December Group 1s to cover myself, so we'll wait to see how he runs on Sunday and go from there,” he continued. “Of course, his target is the Derby and we don't want to have a burnout situation. His racing will be spaced.”

Rocketeer opens his Hong Kong account in a Class 2 2000m race last term, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club

Horses being aimed at the BMW Hong Kong Derby rarely contest the December features. It is common for Derby candidates to take in at least one or both of the other two contests in the three-race Four-Year-Old Classic Series, January’s Hong Kong Classic Mile (1600m) and February’s Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m), but Moore is considering a different approach.

“If he does go to the internationals, you'd be looking at a (G1) Hong Kong Gold Cup into a Derby, maybe stay away from the four-year-old classics,” he revealed.

Rocketeer arrived in Hong Kong around the turn of the year, having been placed in G3 company at 2000m before running seventh in the G1 Victoria Derby (2500m). The Smart Missile gelding won his fourth of five starts at Sha Tin during the latter part of last term, a Class 2 handicap at 2000m. The bay was a staying-on eighth of 14 over 1600m in the same grade three weeks ago.

“The Ladies’ Purse was not a target as such, I just picked it as it was a nice progression in distance,” Moore said. “We're just on an upward with respect to distance: so this sort of route was always the plan, in terms of an escalation in distance.

“This race fell in nicely, from first-up at a mile into 1800 metres, and it gives us the option to go on to the Cup or the Vase.”

With a rating of 93, Rocketeer is 4lb out of the handicap and will carry 113lb on Sunday, with the in-form lightweight Karis Teetan booked for the ride.

“Teetan rides because of the weights, but he's very well weighted, even though he's out of the handicap,” Moore said.

“He’s going well in his work so I’d be thinking this is where we’ll find out where he is at.”

The Sa Sa Ladies’ Purse, first run in 1846, has attracted a strong field of 14. Moore will also saddle LONGINES HKIR entries Eagle Way (128lb) and Helene Charisma (119lb), as well as Harbour Master (120lb). The field also features last year’s winner Horse Of Fortune (131lb) and his promising stablemate Nassa (113lb), as well as the talented Tony Cruz-trained Time Warp (123lb), and top-weight Circuit Land (133lb) from Danny Shum’s yard.