Jockey Darren Beadman gave an enthusiastic thumbs up for Viva Pataca after the champion completed his pre-Dubai departure work with a win in a mile barrier trial Monday, March 17, at Sha Tin Racecourse in Hong Kong.
Viva Pataca departs March 19 to represent Hong Kong in the world’s equal-richest race on turf, the $5 million Dubai Sheema Classic (UAE-I) on March 29, and the trial was part of trainer John Moore’s strategy to have the gelding at his peak for the big occasion.
“He felt really good throughout the trial and had a good blow after it, so the run will have done him the world of good,” Beadman said. “I did just enough on him to make him do what I wanted him to do, but there was at least another gear there that I never called on."
Viva Pataca balanced back in the field but railed up approaching the home turn to be within striking distance of the leaders. Beadman persisted with a series of inside runs to claim the lead approaching the 200 meters and the four-time group I winner kept on under a gentle hand ride to score by a short head from Iron Fist (Douglas Whyte).
“Douglas is such a competitive guy that he wants to win everything, races, barrier trials, gallops – the lot,” Beadman joked. “But I have to say it suited us, because Viva Pataca was going along so easily and at least having Iron Fist staying with us like that made him do the right amount of work.”
Iron Fist is a British private purchase, owned by the Anthony Millard Trainer Syndicate. The Desert Style colt had only three starts in England and France, winning two of them, highlighted by a listed race at Deauville at his final European start last August.
Viva Pataca will seek to replicate the performance of Hong Kong Horse of the Year Vengeance of Rain, who lifted the Sheema Classic last year for the Chow family, trainer David Ferraris and jockey Anthony Delpech.
Trainer John Moore decided to give Viva Pataca a strong trial over a mile after learning the 6-year-old would not have access to the Dubai track for 48 hours after his arrival in the UAE capital.
The trainer did not want the robust Viva Pataca’s condition getting away from him while the quarantine protocols were observed, so he chose to crank up the training gradient before departure to compensate.
Hong Kong will have four horses competing at the world’s richest race meeting. Apart from Viva Pataca as the obvious headliner, Tony Cruz-trained stablemates Bullish Luck (Brett Prebble) and Floral Pegasus will tackle the $5 million Dubai Duty Free (UAE-I), while Watch What Happens (Beadman) has gained a place in the Godolphin Mile ((UAE-II) on dirt.