Trainer John Moore has seen plenty in his 32 years in the Hong Kong training ranks, not to mention his tenure as an assistant to his father, the legendary George Moore, before that. However, in Rapper Dragon, Moore believes he may finally have a horse capable of becoming the first to win all three legs of the Four-Year-Old Classic Series, a feat the Street Boss gelding can achieve with victory in Sunday’s (19 March) BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m).
“Definitely, he’s capable,” five-time Derby winner Moore said at Sha Tin this morning (16 March) after watching all six of his Derby runners complete their final major gallops on the Sha Tin turf. “He’s going to be hard to beat, there’s no doubt about it, he’s rated 14 points higher than any of his rivals and he will be a deserved favourite. To win all three legs of the series is very hard, we’ve seen horses go close before but they have come up short in the Derby, but there is something about this horse. It is a different race, because they have the short run to the first turn, but he should be able to lay up and he should be able to steal enough of a break on his main rivals.”
Rapper Dragon proved too classy in the first two legs of the Four-Year-Old Classic Series, the Hong Kong Classic Mile (1600m) in January and the Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m) last month. He is the third horse to attempt to add Derby victory to wins in the other two legs, with Floral Pegasus (second in 2007) and Sun Jewellery (seventh in 2016) both coming up short. However, Moore believes that Rapper Dragon is good enough to extend his ability out to the longer 2000m trip.
“Great horses that I have had over the years, they can win from 1400m to 2000m, they are versatile,” the trainer said. “They’re that good, they are just superior athletes and they can do it. This horse may be best at a mile, and he might even find himself in a Champions Mile in a few weeks, but he can stretch it out against his own age group, even in a good Derby like this one.”
Rapper Dragon and Joao Moreira, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club
All six of Moore’s Derby contenders worked down Sha Tin’s home straight this morning, with the trainer particularly pleased with the effort of Rapper Dragon under raceday partner Joao Moreira. He worked in company with Midnight Rattler, who runs in Sunday’s Class 2 Akeed Mofeed Handicap (1400m), the pair completing 1200m in 1m 24.2s and coming home the last 400m in 23.1s.
“I was very pleased with the work, he galloped the house down,” Moore said. “He really impressed me, and I normally don’t think he’s a great worker. As he usually does, he’s pulled up really well and he’s definitely our leading chance.”
Four of his six raceday jockeys were on hand to partner their mounts in their final pieces of fast work this morning, with Moreira on Rapper Dragon, Douglas Whyte on Helene Charisma, Sam Clipperton on Rodrico and Zac Purton on Beauty Generation.
Tommy Berry, who partners Eagle Way, and Booming Delight’s pilot Ryan Moore will fly in after the Golden Slipper meeting in Sydney on Saturday.
Booming Delight, a winner of his last three starts under Sam Clipperton, had the Australian rider aboard in his gallop this morning. He worked alongside Classic Mile third Beauty Generation over 1200m in 1m 23.7s (29.6, 30.6, 23.5).
“My team, I think they are where you would want them to be three days out from a big race,” Moore said. “Sam was on Booming Delight this morning, he knows the horse well and said he felt terrific. Zac came down, he’s not feeling well at all, his ear is playing up, but he got a feel for Beauty Generation. They both appear on target.”
French G1 winner Helene Charisma was sent out with Class 4 galloper Ashkiyr, comfortably besting his workmate in a time of 1m 20.4s for 1200m, including a slick last sectional of 22.9s.
“Helene Charisma, I sent him out with Ashkiyr and he beat him easily, as you’d hope he would,” Moore said. “He’s going to appreciate further but he’s coming into this race as well as he can be.”
Eagle Way and Rodrico have already filled the first two positions in one Derby, having finished one-two in the G1 Queensland Derby (2400m) in June, and after finishing together in a track gallop this morning – Eagle Way clocking 1m 20.9s for 1200m (28.8, 29.7, 22.4) – Moore believes both can finish around the mark on Sunday.
“Eagle Way galloped really well with Rodrico, they both went really well actually,” Moore said. “Eagle Way is coming to hand well and appears to be peaking at the right time, although he will be even better over further. And Rodrico worked as well as he has at any time while he has been here.
“It’s going to be a great race, to have six runners in the field is already a win of sorts. Now, we just have to hope we take the prize!”
The BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) is scheduled as the eighth of 10 races on Sunday and will jump at 4:35pm.