Posted On: Thursday, 27 April 2017
Tavistock gelding Werther whisked through the mist at Sha Tin on Thursday morning with a business-like final gallop ahead of Sunday's $HK20 million Audemars Piguet Queen Elizabeth II Cup (2000m) that reinforced John Moore's opinion that last year's winner is in the right zone to repeat the feat.
The trainer watched from beyond the winning post as the blinkered bay moved with assured strength down the turf home straight to finish on top of his companion, one-time smart sprinter Leading City.
Sam Clipperton filled the irons for the 6.30am hit-out, with big-race pilot Hugh Bowman due to fly in from Australia. Werther was clocked at 1:20 (28, 29.1, 22.9) for the final 1200m of his work.
"I'm very pleased. We're going in with confidence," Moore said shortly afterwards.
"Sam said he was really strong to the line here and very strong through the line. He said the horse wasn't going to pull up - he was going on - so that's very indicative of what the feedback was at this time last year.
"We're going in with a very fit horse. He's bang on. Vincent, my English riding boy who rode him in the trotting ring this morning, he mentioned that he was very, very free."
Moore rates Japan's Neorealism and the Pakistan Star as Werther's two biggest dangers on Sunday.
"If Neorealism doesn't bring his A-game, Pakistan Star will be the horse to beat. But Werther is world class and they've all got to bring their very best to beat him," Moore said.
"And he only has to walk from his box over there to the track here and then he's back into his tucker in no time. Home advantage is a big factor."
Werther missed the first part of this season due to a suspensory injury to his off-hind, including December's Gr.1 Hong Kong Cup. The belligerent gelding returned to action in January's Gr.1 Stewards' Cup (1600m), maintained his perfect course and distance record in the Gr.1 Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup, and was a solid fourth behind Rapper Dragon in the G2 Chairman's Trophy (1600m) earlier this month.
Moore is satisfied that Hong Kong's reigning Horse of the Year has benefited from a light campaign.
"Sam said that that run at the mile last time has done him the world of good and really topped him off," Moore said.
"Missing that first part of the season might not have been a bad thing because he's only really got going since the turn-of-the-year to now, so he's on a perfect prep.
"Last year he had a tough campaign, starting in December after import and taking in those tough four-year-old races, including the Derby, he really had to show us what he was made of. This time he's only been aiming at this race. Everything has been a prep to get to this race and it's only his fourth run of the season."
Werther caught the eye when returning to trackwork towards the end of last year with his recalcitrant antics and, while the son of boom Cambridge Stud sire Tavistock has toned things down as his prep has progressed, he is far from sainthood.
"He still plays up a little bit in the mornings and on race days he'll try and cow-kick you, but that’s just him," Moore said. - David Morgan, HKJC
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