The new season group races cannot come soon enough for trainer John Moore and jockey Darren Beadman, who believe world-rated stayer Viva Pataca is “better than ever” as he builds up for a revenge tilt at the HK$20 million Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Cup.
Viva Pataca, owned by Macau casino magnate Stanley Ho Hung-sun, had sidestepped a possible trip to Melbourne for the group I Cox Plate in October, and will instead focus on Hong Kong’s richest race at 2,000 meters at Sha Tin Dec. 14. This is Viva Pataca’s fourth autumn preparation since being bought by Ho in the summer of 2005, and Moore believes he has never looked better.
“He came back into work at the end of July and has now had three gallops,” said Moore, who was on hand Sept. 14 to watch Beadman send Viva Pataca over a steady 800 meters on the all-weather track. “We are not going anywhere this year--he’s staying here and being specifically targeted for the Hong Kong Cup.
“Last year, the Cup was the one that got away, as everyone knows he was held up in a pocket and rushed to the line to be beaten a nose by Frankie Dettori on Ramonti. Well, this year, that’s the race he has been set for, and that’s the race we want to win. We’ve had it with unlucky seconds; now we want to win it. He’ll have the same program--the Sha Tin Trophy (Oct 26), the International Cup Trial (Nov 16), and then the Cup.”
Moore responded to praise from trackside personnel, who commented on how forward the Marju gelding looks and how healthy he seems in the coat.
“I agree, I’ve never had him so well at this time of the year,” the trainer said. “Two years ago, he never came quite right until the second half of the season, and that was when he won the QE2 and the Champions & Chater (both group I). Last year, he was being prepared for a trip to Melbourne when equine influenza caused us to cancel his trip. But this year, everything’s right. Darren agrees (that he’s better than last year). He’s very happy with the horse.”
Viva Pataca is officially rated one of the 10 best Thoroughbreds in the world on an international rating of 122. He was second to Sun Classique in the $5-million Sheema Classic (UAE-I) at 2,400 meters in Dubai March 29 when brought undone by a wide barrier.
Viva Pataca has won 13 races--eight in Hong Kong and five in England, where he raced under the name Comic Strip. The prize money he has earned since being trained by Moore is HK$52,345,500, the fourth highest in local racing history behind Vengeance of Rain, Silent Witness, and Bullish Luck.