Rapper Dragon did what none before him had been able to accomplish, sealing a sweep of Hong Kong's 4-year-old Classic Series with an emphatic victory in the March 19 BMW Hong Kong Derby.
Stretching out to 2,000 meters (about 1 1/4 miles), the Australian-bred Street Boss gelding charged to the front as the field turned for home on the rain-softened Sha Tin turf. He quickly opened a comfortable lead and, as was the case in the two earlier legs of the series, a late run by Pakistan Star fell short.
At the wire, jockey Joao Moreira was celebrating and Pakistan Star was still 1 3/4 lengths in arrears in second. Beauty Generation was third in the race that most Hong Kong Jockey Club owners value above even international group 1 events.
"I got emotional," said Moreira, known to the locals as "Magic Man" and a first-time winner of the Derby. "I was saying to everyone beforehand that it was the race I wanted to win the most and thanks to God that I achieved that."
Trainer John Moore scored his sixth Hong Kong Derby win, by far the most satisfying, as Rapper Dragon put the historic cap on a series that started with wins in the Hong Kong Classic Mile in January and the Hong Kong Classic Cup at 1,800 meters (about 1 1/8 miles) last month.
"They didn't make it easy for him," Moore said. "But Joao had a lot of horse and when he came in he said the horse just loved the going. Joao said there was a moment or two there when he probably was in a tight position but he extricated himself and hit the line like he usually does—really, really strongly."
After savoring the history and the winner's share of the HK$18 million (about US$2.3 million) purse, Moore will face the choice of what to do next with his star. Looming on the horizon are two international group 1 events—the Audemars Piguet Queen Elizabeth II at 2,000 meters April 30 and, just a week later, the Champions Mile. Moore sounded inclined to the latter.
"Rapper Dragon's got versatility so I'm sure I can freshen him up and bring him back to the mile," the trainer said. "He's got the gate speed, so I'm sure he'd be a live chance in the Champions Mile ... He's still improving. This is a really serious horse."
Moore saddled not only Rapper Dragon and Beauty Generation but also Helene Charisma (fifth), Eagle Way (sixth), and Blooming Delight (eighth), taking the edge off his long shot Rodrico finishing last of the 14 starters after ensuring an honest pace down the backstretch.
Pakistan Star, meanwhile, isn't out of the picture for any of the upcoming big races as the Hong Kong season winds down—or for the Longines Hong Kong International Races in December. The Shamardal gelding, who typically runs from the back, was hindered by the "soft to yielding" turf on Sunday and had traffic issues before he straightened out for the sprint to the line.
"He's run a nice race," jockey Silvestre de Sousa said of Pakistan Star. "When I burst through he gave me a dash but when I got to the winner (Rapper Dragon) just picked up again. Both horses went on the ground but when you ride a horse from the back it's always a bit difficult. But I'm happy with the way he went through. The best horse won.
"There's still a bit up his sleeve for next year," de Sousa allowed.
It was the 140th running of the Hong Kong Derby, which has a history stretching back to 1873. Rapper Dragon was the third attempting to sweep the 4-year-old Classic Series, following failed attempts by Floral Pegasus, who finished second in 2007, and Sun Jewellery, who was seventh in last year's edition.