How do you follow up a towering performance in the biggest domestic race on the Hong Kong calendar? By laying down the gauntlet to champion miler Good Ba Ba at his pet distance, that’s how.
And after that, John Moore has given his blessing for Collection to lock antlers with Hong Kong’s benchmark stayer Viva Pataca in the group I Champions & Chater Cup at 2,400 meters (1 ½ miles).
Team Moore was in superb form after Collection, starting a piping hot 1-4 favorite, trounced Classic Mile hero Thumbs Up in the HK$16 million Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong Derby (HK-I, 1 ¼ miles) off an inspired Darren Beadman ride.
Moore was delighted that a brave long-term plan had come off so spectacularly with Collection, who was purchased from owners Highclere Bloodstock late last year for an undisclosed amount for his latest Trainer Syndicate.
But far from being satisfied with nailing the target race March 21, it’s onward and upward for the son of 1997 European champion Peintre Celebre and a Champions Mile meeting with Good Ba Ba is next on the agenda.
“I’ve already discussed it with the members of the syndicate and we will be leaving Viva Pataca alone in the [Audemars Piguet] Queen Elizabeth Cup,” Moore explained. “This horse has such a stunning turn of foot that I wouldn’t be frightened at all to bring him back to the mile.”
Beadman concurred. “I love top-class horses coming back in distance,” the jockey said. “They are so strong at the end of their races and I’m sure this horse would be the same.
“He has an amazing turn of foot and I’m actually quite excited at the propect of bringing him back to the mile. He can get a bit keen anyway and he’ll appreciate the stronger tempo of a mile race.”
Moore said, however, that a clash of his six-time group I winner Viva Pataca and the rising star Collection would not be put off indefinitely.
“They’ll clash in the Champions & Chater,” Moore said definitely.
The HK$8 million Champions & Chater Cup is the final group I race of the season, to be run at Sha Tin on May 31.
Beadman’s spur-of-the-moment decision to loop the field and take a handy position from the 800 metres on Collection received a generous compliment from international champion Christophe Soumillon, who had himself ridden a superb tactical race on Thumbs Up.
“I feared we were all running for second but I thought if I could put him forward in the race, and catch them by surprise, then maybe we could get away with a tactical victory,” Soumillon said.
“But Darren made a very smart more. He took the risk and went around them down the back straight and that was the move that won him the race. If he had waited and tried to give my horse a big start turning for home, Thumbs Up would have been the Derby winner.”
Soumillon plans to be back in Hong Kong for one more meeting this season --- to ride Good Ba Ba in the Champions Mile on April 26.
"I’m 80% sure I will be free to come back for Good Ba Ba,” said Soumillon, with the 20% doubt being because of his commitments in France as retained jockey to the Aga Khan.
Should Soumillon be required in France, the mount on Good Ba Ba will go to Eric Saint-Martin.