A Case Of Pace

A slow tempo brings the good horses back to the lesser ones

John Moore

John Moore – accused of trickery

Pace makes the race. Tempo is the quality of a race which can make the average look like a champion and a champion look average.

And, with multiple runners – even half the field sometimes – in most of the top-end races on the calendar, trainer John Moore gets accused by rivals, off the record of course, of all kinds of trickery regarding tempo.

It’s an insidious form of jealousy and there hasn’t ever been any evidence to support it – for example, Moore himself was the loudest voice complaining about being disadvantaged by a very slow tempo after Fay Fay’s 2012 Derby, in which he saddled up six of the 14 runners.

So, there was a certain irony in the Hong Kong Mile on Sunday that, when Moore would have loved a pacemaker in it, his major rival took up the role and assisted Able Friend to produce the (officially) best performance ever by a Hong Kong horse.

Just about the only way Able Friend might have been beaten after drawing wide in the race was a traffic problem in a very slow race, or a stop-start kind of race with a long dash from the 800m that dragged his devastating sprint out over a longer distance than just the length of the straight. A good well-run tempo was just what the doctor ordered.

A very slow pace will always condense the finish and thus immediately takes away the possibility of the kind of international rating that Able Friend’s wide margin guarantees him when the revised numbers are published, so connections will have Gold-Fun to thank for that, as well.

Able Friend, with Joao Moreira aboard, showed his class to storm away to win the Hong Kong Mile on Sunday

Able Friend, with Joao Moreira aboard, showed his class to storm away to win the Hong Kong Mile on Sunday

A slow tempo brings the good horses back to the lesser ones, which is why Khaya was able to finish so close to Flintshire, despite the gulf between them in ratings and talent. Flintshire would have clobbered Khaya with more speed on, but the pace was well against Willie Cazals too and he got fairly close to tipping the favourite over. He’s a good quality stayer and we’d love to see him join Dominant in tackling a race at The Championships in Sydney, like the Sydney Cup, since there’s not exactly a lot on for stayers here until May.

The Vase never really looked like being run any other way – and that was hardly a first for a 2400m race here – but there was either no recognition of that or any attempt to take remedial action from any of the better-class visitors, whose people shrugged and blamed the speed afterwards.

The speed in the Cup was notable for a different reason.

Very few races in this part of the world start moderately and build as the race goes along but that’s what happened in the Hong Kong Cup, where every 400m section was quicker than the one before. Strangely, that shape seems to have been seen in this race several times in recent runnings, but rarely happens in plain vanilla local 2000m events where the pace bounces up and down then finishes with a dash home.

The track raced fairly – the strongest evidence for that being that some participants appeared to believe racing on the pace was a big advantage and some others thought the fence was off. Neither was true. And times suggested a surface just a tiny bit slower than last year’s HKIR stage but a whole lot slower than the roadway we had at Sha Tin in November.

All things considered, a successful HKIR that will hold up as our horses branch out to other meetings like Dubai and hopefully its all-round professionalism will help to attract runners in for the newly-international races in the new year, like the Stewards’ Cup and Gold Cup.

www.scmp.com

 

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