Posted On: Monday, 27 February 2017
Hong Kong's reigning Horse of the Year Werther maintained his perfect record over the Sha Tin 2000m with a gutsy win in Sunday's Gr.1 Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup as trainer John Moore confirmed plans to tackle the US$6 million Dubai Turf (1800m) on 25 March with the Tavistock five-year-old.
Moore landed his fifth consecutive Gold Cup and a record 12th overall as even-money favourite Werther overcame a chequered season and significant trouble on the home turn under Hugh Bowman to wear down Tony Cruz's evergreen galloper Blazing Speed by a short head. Dennis Yip-trained Secret Weapon finished third, three-quarters of a length from the winner. The winner stopped the clock in 2:3.78, but clocked a swift final sectional of 22.10 seconds.
"It's a special win for the stable and for the staff," Moore said.
"These big days are what we target, and so to have a result like this is a thrill."
It was Werther's third win from three attempts at the course and distance, having won the Hong Kong Derby in March before an imperious effort to take the G1 Audemars Piguet QEII Cup in April.
The win also took Tavistock's tally of Group One wins to 10 and re-established Werther's position among the elite gallopers of the world.
Werther had missed the early part of this season with a right hind suspensory injury, only returning to the races for January’s Gr.1 Stewards' Cup (1600m), but according to Moore, his tenacious win in Sunday's feature showed he was right back on track now.
"I always thought he'd come back to his best. I was more worried about his quirkiness than his injury," Moore said.
"Winning the QEII like he did, it put him top five in the planet on turf, so we know that we've got a very special horse, but it took something else for him to win today. At about the 500m, the horses have improved on his outside very quickly, and he got put back on the heels of Blazing Speed, it nearly cost him the race.
"But he does stay 2000m strongly, as we know, he picked himself up and still hit the line strongly. So it was a gutsy effort. I'm ecstatic that we got away with it today, and had he not been interfered with, he probably would have won by a length or so, but that's racing and I'm now looking forward to Dubai with him."
Bowman said that he had been mindful of the horse's fitness when plotting a path through the field.
"I was confident that I had the horse underneath me, but when Neil Callan (on Blazing Speed) went in behind Basic Trilogy at about the 1400m I raced without cover for most of the race," the Australian rider said.
"Just being second-up over 2000m, I felt I was on the best horse in the race but the other horses I felt had an obvious fitness advantage. And that's why I was inclined to wait as long as I could, and obviously the pressure built and built quickly and that's when I found myself in a bit of a precarious position at the home turn.
"But good horses can overcome a little bit of trouble, and he certainly knows where the winning post is. He's been a great horse for me and a great horse for Hong Kong." - Andrew Hawkins, HKJC
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