Tony Cruz is in a straight head-to-head at Sha Tin on Sunday with John Moore, to decide who will become the first trainer to snare seven wins in Hong Kong’s final Gr1 of the season, the Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup
Moore’s four runners are the only opposition to Cruz’s three, making a field of seven.
“If the favourite doesn’t come with his ‘A Game’ at the weekend, we come right there with all guns blazing. It would be great to depart Hong Kong on a Group 1 win and as far as I’m concerned we have a great chance of doing that,” Moore said.
The veteran handler’s long and storied Hong Kong career will close out at the end of this campaign but he hopes to carry off one last major with any one of Savvy Nine, Helene Charisma, Eagle Way or Chefano.
Moore is putting the bulk of his faith in a pair of horses with form on French racecourses, the four-year-old Savvy Nine and the three years older Helene Charisma, a Gr1 winner at the trip back in 2016 and a known soft ground lover.
“If the pace is genuine, I think Savvy Nine and Helene Charisma would probably be my stable picks and Chefano should like the cut in the ground too. Helene Charisma will definitely enjoy it and Savvy Nine, I can’t see any reason why he won’t enjoy it – they’ll think they’re back at Longchamp or something!” Moore said.
Joao Moreira partnered Savvy Nine to place second behind the front-running Chefano in the Gr3 Queen Mother Memorial Cup Handicap (2400m) last time and he wants the rain to keep on falling.
“I think this kind of surface affects probably 65 to 70% of the horses negatively and he’s one of the other 30 or 35% that just gets better on it,” Moreira said.
“He went 2400 metres last time so I’m not worried about the distance – I think he was needing the run last time and now he should be right there. Exultant’s the horse to beat, there’s no doubt about that, but I have to keep the faith and I think my horse has done nothing wrong.”
Moore also had a word or two for the old-timer Eagle Way, third in the QEII Cup but well beaten behind Chefano last time under top-weight.
“We’re going back to set-weights now and it’s a big difference – he was carrying 133lb last start whereas Chefano and Savvy Nine were carrying postage stamps. Off level weights he’d have to be some sort of chance of picking up some really good prize money,” he said.
Moore was granted a special extension at the usual retirement age of 65 five years ago but Jockey Club executive director of racing Andrew Harding said there was a hard cap at age 70.
His forced retirement at the end of this season will bring the end to a partnership with the Jockey Club that dates back to 1971.
Moore will also depart as the record holder for all-time career prize money, having amassed almost HK$2 billion for connections in his career while training more winners than anyone else in the history of Hong Kong racing.
The Gr1 Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup is race eight on an 11-race card that also features the Gr3 Sha Tin Vase Handicap (1200m)..