Trainer John Moore is hopeful that his “forgotten” stable star Werther can defy top-weight fresh in Sunday’s (3 June) G3 Lion Rock Trophy Handicap (1600m) with a trip to Japan all but confirmed for the former Horse of the Year.
The Lion Rock Trophy is one of Hong Kong’s newest features, having entered the calendar in 2016. Moore is the only winning trainer in the race’s brief history, taking the spoils with Rapper Dragon in 2016 and Booming Delight last year.
“Hopefully, it can be another successful Lion Rock Trophy with Werther,” Moore said. “It seems like he’s the forgotten horse in town these days and I really don’t think he should be forgotten on Sunday. He might have to give away 10-plus pounds to most of the field but he will just keep hitting the line first-up at the mile. Don’t make a mistake, he’s going in with a solid chance of winning this, especially from a good gate.”
Werther has not raced since the G1 Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup (2000m), when he appeared certain to race past the Tony Cruz-trained Time Warp only to falter in the final strides and finish a half-length second. His time that day of 2m 00.03s would have been enough to lower Jim And Tonic’s 19-year course record on its own, but in producing such an effort, the Tavistock six-year-old bled from both nostrils and incurred an automatic three-month ban from racing.
“The comeback of Werther is sure to be one of the stories of the race,” Moore said. “He is one of Hong Kong’s top three beyond a mile along with Time Warp and Pakistan Star, and maybe he is still the best here. I think, if he’d been right, he would have won the Gold Cup and beaten Time Warp, while he is one-all with Pakistan Star and neither has raced the other when they’ve been at the top of their game.
“So even though it’s a trip short of his best, I think on class alone he’s a squeak.”
Werther has been brought along slowly by Moore. He has been given two trials over 1200m on the Sha Tin dirt with new raceday rider Douglas Whyte in the saddle, catching the eye in flashing home for third in his most recent hit out on 25 May.