Fellow upstages fancied stablemates in Ambitious Dragon Handicap
The market expected a John Moore-trained winner of the Class 1 Ambitious Dragon Handicap (1400m), the undercard feature on BMW Hong Kong Derby day on Sunday (19 March), and the handler duly saluted in a portent of things to come in the Derby itself later on the Sha Tin card.
However, unlike the four-year-old feature, it was not the Moore victor that the market expected as favourites Invincible Dragon and Helene Paragon were upstaged by Dashing Fellow in a tactical five-horse race.
Class 1 Hong Kong Macau Trophy Handicap (1400m) winner Invincible Dragon (115lb) was sent out the 1.6 favourite with Joao Moreira aboard, while two-time G1 victor Helene Paragon also had supporters for jockey Tommy Berry at 3.4, despite being burdened with 133 pounds. Dashing Fellow did have support late, backed into 5/1, but he was a clear third elect from the Moore yard.
“Dashing Fellow just kept kicking to the line because he’s a warhorse,” Moore said of the Karis Teetan-ridden Duporth gelding. “He’s genuine as the day is long and he just kept kicking to the line, and just the weight pull told the tale at the end of the race. They let him dictate, he goes at his own speed and that was it, he was always going to be hard to pass.”
A stirring spectacle of all five runners stretched across the track at the 200m suggested backmarkers Invincible Dragon and Helene Paragon were about to assert their superiority, but it was long-time leader Dashing Fellow who staved off all challenges to record a neck victory over John Size-trained Contentment (129lb). Invincible Dragon was a further length away in third, with Helene Paragon last of the five runners, four and a quarter lengths from the winner.
“He hated the ground, Helene Paragon,” Moore said. “He was floundering with the weight and he was struggling in the going. But this was just a handicap and he has bigger targets. I think he would handle it with, say, 126 pounds on his back, but not with 133 pounds. Invincible Dragon, he wasn’t comfortable on the ground. He did win at Saint-Cloud on soft going before he came here, but this is a different type of soft – here, it is shifting on top, whereas you get right into the ground at Saint-Cloud.”
Moreira dominates as Hall snares double
The BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) belonged to Moore and Moreira with Rapper Dragon, but it was Moreira who dominated proceedings outside of the feature with a five-timer of his own.
The Brazilian rider scored a double for trainer David Hall, taking the Class 4 Helene Mascot Handicap (1200m) on Mr Picasso (132lb) and the Class 3 Luger Handicap (2000m) on Mambo Rock (116lb), while he added the Class 4 Fay Fay Handicap (1000m) on Tony Millard-trained Strathclyde before taking the final race, the Class 2 Akeed Mofeed Handicap (1400m), on Size’s Western Express.
Hall said Moreira’s ride on Mambo Rock was a stellar display of horsemanship, but he believes it wasn’t the best ride on the 10-race card.
“I think ride of the day has to go to Joao’s effort on Mr Picasso earlier, maybe just,” Hall said with a smile. “They are always good rides from Joao, we get a bit spoilt when we have him on. With Mambo Rock, he drew one, he hugged the rail, and there was probably some thoughts about wanting to get off the rail, but he makes the right decisions and that’s what makes him so good.”
Mambo Rock has now won twice from his last three starts, but Hall says the four-year-old is likely to have a break now before attempting to climb into Class 2 next term.
“He has scope, but I think he’s probably done enough for now,” Hall said. “We’ve thought about gelding him previously and I think if I take a bit of a risk and leave him as a colt until next season, it might be a bit dangerous. So we might give him a break, geld him and then see if he can keep climbing next season.”
Mr Picasso has proven a quirky customer at times, but the four-year-old finally broke through the top of Class 4 with a game success in the opener.
“He’s his own worst enemy, for sure,” Hall said. “He’s extremely nervous and we’ve spent a lot of time, done a lot of things with him that have not had much effect. He gets himself worked up, and the weather was probably a little kinder to us today so he looked marginally better. But I’m not looking forward to the hot, humid summer, it might take too much out of him. Hopefully, with more racing and with age, he will mature mentally, and it is needed if he is to climb higher.”
Size said he would continue to race Western Express in handicaps as long as he can, although he said he came out of a last-start 12th in the Hong Kong Classic Cup with excuses.
“I will see if I can find a Class 1 for him,” Size said. “The classier horses might be a bit too strong for him at the moment. He had a blood abnormality after the Classic Cup that ruled him out of the Hong Kong Macau Trophy but he’s thrived since, he’s come right pretty quickly, he trialled well and he seemed to actually freshen up well after the Classic Cup. That was crucial today.”
Racing returns to Happy Valley on Wednesday night (22 March), with the Class 1 Happy Valley Vase (1800m) the feature.
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