John Moore made an impassioned case for Viva Pataca to be named Hong Kong’s Horse of the Year after the famous stayer clawed his way to a third win in the Citi Champions & Chater Cup (HK-I) May 31.
With the HK$2 million bonus he earned for winning two legs of the Citi triple crown, Viva Pataca took his stakes earnings to more than $HK71.3 million, making him second only to Vengeance of Rain ($HK75,410,500) as the biggest winning horse in local racing history.
Although his boom 4-year-old Collection failed to cope with the pressure and stamina requirements of this end-of-season 2,400m championship, Moore was thrilled that his veteran stable stalwart had earned top billing by a neck over Thumbs Up.
“I’m very pleased for Viva Pataca, today he’s really showed his true form,” Moore began. “Now, the thing I want for him is to become Horse of the Year as well.
“There’s no doubt he deserves it, he’s been a great horse, coming back season after season and always competing at the very top level. But I’ve been here over 30 years and I’ve seen that some people can get very impressed with an overseas group one win and that blinds them to what they’ve seen locally. I hope that doesn’t happen again. In any case, he’s my champion — he’s my Horse of the Year.”
Moore was clearly referring to the decision to give Horse of the Year honors to Vengeance of Rain two years ago, even though Viva Pataca defeated the great New Zealand-bred stayer in both the Audemars Piguet Queen Elizabeth II Cup and the Champions & Chater Cup that year.
A majority of the voting panel decided that Vengeance of Rain’s win in the Sheema Classic (UAE-I) in Dubai counted for more than those two clear-cut defeats by his main opponent at home. And even though Viva Pataca won the race billed as the “decider,” the vote ultimately went against him.
In eerily similar circumstances, Sacred Kingdom is about to journey to Royal Ascot and a victory there in the group I Golden Jubilee Stakes could derail Moore’s Horse of the Year hopes once more.
Weichong Marwing gained the ride on Viva Pataca when stable jockey Darren Beadman went with the youth and potential of Derby hero Collection, and the South African was very humble in victory.
“It was a great feeling but I do feel very sorry for Darren,” Marwing began. “I’ve been in that situation myself and these decisions have to be made but it’s not possible to always get them right. I take no credit for the win, full marks to John Moore and all his staff for the great job they’ve done with Viva Pataca.”
Viva Pataca has now won seven group I events, a sequence which began in the Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong Derby of 2005. He has also won the Hong Kong Gold Cup twice, the 2006 QE-II and three editions of the Champions & Chater.
That’s not a unprecedented, however. Super Win, trained by John’s late father George Moore, won the race three times in successive years, 1975-77. Silver Lining also won three Champions & Chaters (1978, ‘79 and ‘81) and was prepared by George Moore for the second and third wins.
The supreme champion of the race, however, was the immortal River Verdon, raced by former Jockey Club chairmen Ronald Arculli and Oswald Cheung. River Verdon, trained by David Hill, won the race four times from 1991-94.
Seven-year-old Viva Pataca will stay in training next season, with his first target being Vengeance of Rain’s prize money record.
“Viva Pataca will definitely get past Vengeance of Rain — he’s very sound, apart from those well-documented, niggling feet problems, but we’ve learned how to manage them effectively,” Moore continued.
“He will set a very big target for some other champion horse that might come along in the next 10 or 20 years. Whenever that happens, good luck to the horses who want to take that record on.”