Able Friend “ready to rumble” in LONGINES Hong Kong Mile

John Moore has a strong team for this year’s LONGINES Hong Kong International Races and the Sha Tin trainer is confident that Able Friend is ready to show the world what he can do in Sunday’s HK$23 million LONGINES Hong Kong Mile.

The strapping chestnut was imperious when winning the G2 BOCHK Wealth Management Jockey Club Mile at the course and distance on 23 November. Jockey Joao Moreira had the luxury of easing down close home on the Shamardal five-year-old, who had surged clear of top-class rivals to win by over two lengths.

Able Friend will have a final piece of work on the backstretch of Sha Tin’s turf track later in the week as he takes aim at a G1 breakthrough.

“Able Friend will go on the grass on Thursday over the back – we’ll keep him on nice flat ground, so we don’t upset his hind quarters,” said Moore, who will work his LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint contenders Sterling City and Flagship Shine over the same strip that morning.

“It was a phenomenal run last time and we thought he was underdone,” he added. “I don’t need to do much more with him. I put him down the back over the grass the other day because it had rained on the dirt track and I didn’t want the same problem with his hind quarters that he had earlier in the season. He did that and he’ll do it again on Thursday.”

Moore is confident that the horse he has always considered a champion-in-waiting is primed and will be able to step up and take the crown on Sunday.

“If he does what he did the other day in 1m 33s on the bit, what more do you need to do? Why bore it up him? He weighs 1290lb now and we don’t want him much lighter than that. 1280lb to 1290lb is perfect – the days of him being 1244lb are gone. He’s ready to rumble!” he said.

Able Friend saw off last season’s LONGINES Hong Kong Mile runner-up Gold-Fun when winning last start, while the 2012 Mile victor Ambitious Dragon was third. The latter, so brilliant in victory two years ago, missed last season’s edition due to injury and has had only two starts since returning from that 18-month lay-off. Both have shown that he retains plenty of ability.

Tony Millard has booked Ryan Moore for his stable star but feels that the two-time Hong Kong Horse of the Year has a bit to find if Able Friend turns up in the same form as last time.

“Ryan Moore will have a sit on him towards the end of the week, just to get a feel for him,” said Millard of the eight-year-old. “We worked him last week, just to round him off. He only raced two weeks ago and I was happy with his run. It was a good run, it’s just that that other horse ran a race that if he reproduces it the Mile’s going to be academic – it was a very big run by Able Friend.

“Ambitious Dragon’s going along nicely, we need a little bit of luck and as long as we can get there without much to do, well, we’ve got a ticket so we’ve got a chance. He’s certainly right there. Frankly speaking I think Able Friend’s got it to lose by the look of his last race – that was good enough for him to win any race. He got first run and Joao rode an unbelievable race but he was too good that day. We’ll see what happens.”

John Moore will work Designs On Rome (LONGINES Hong Kong Cup) and Dominant (LONGINES Hong Kong Vase) on the Sha Tin turf tomorrow morning (Tuesday, 9 December).

2014 LONGINES HKIR track notes (Monday, 8 December) see below:-

LONGINES Hong Kong Vase

Trainer John Moore said: “There’s a question mark against him on his current form but it was the same scenario last year and he came out and won. The trip suits, we’ll ride him cold and he was just too close in the run the other day behind Blazing Speed.”

Jogged one lap on the all-weather track with regular exercise rider Annelie Ackerman up.
Richard Lambert, travelling head lad, said: “It is his second long-haul flight after California for the Breeders’ Cup Turf last month. I think he has travelled even better this time, as he looks fresher than when he arrived at Santa Anita. The quarantine is easier here because the horses can go out soon after their arrival. There’s more space for them to relax and the track is not surrounded by other horses going in all directions. He’s weighing 489kgs – that is two kilos more than after his second place in the Breeders ‘Cup. I don’t know whether he will go on the turf course this week. It is up to Mr. Fabre. The horse has worked last Tuesday in France and rather needs to recuperate from the trip than getting fitter. He hasn’t had a hard season with only five races under his belt. His only real defeat came in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud on ground that was way too heavy for him. He will be more suited here on a good track. He also likes it right-handed. At Santa Anita, on a tight left-handed course, (jockey) Maxime Guyon had to use him as early as the last bend to avoid being outpaced and Flintshire took some time to find his balance. He finished well on an idling horse though. Once again, he should be much better off here, with more space and time to reach his momentum.”

Cantered on the AWT
Red Cadeaux, a familiar sight at Sha Tin these days, looked in great heart as he put in a routine canter on the all-weather track, watched by his global travelling companion Robin Trevor-Jones, who confirmed his charge’s well-being: “He’s been here for a couple of weeks now, and he’s happy enough. He seems in good nick.”

Sarah Denniff, groom, said: “We are familiarising him with Sha Tin and he just lobbed over four furlongs today. Generally we are very happy with him. His appetite has been good and he only lost 6lb coming to Hong Kong – he could lose that going racing back home! Being here is a good learning curve for him as he is still a bit of a baby.”

Jockey Zac Purton said: “He might be out of his depth but he’s a last start winner and I did manage to win the race last year on Dominant who was written off by many so you never know.”

LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint

Jockey Zac Purton said: “He’s a good horse. It’s not as if he’s snuck up on us, he has won six of his past eight starts. Obviously we can just forget his last run. With a clear run he could have won or at least run second. He’ll be better for that again and Paul (O’Sullivan) trains his horses to improve through a prep. He’s 100% honest and I don’t think he’s far off having what it takes to win a race like this.”

Cantered on the all-weather track.
Trainer Robert Heathcote said: “The horse looks well and he seems happy to me. He’s really settled in now and his blood picture’s good. He just stretched his legs this morning but he’ll have a more serious gallop tomorrow morning. And later in the week we’ll give him a look at the parade ring. Every little thing can help.”

Trainer John Moore said: “He ran well the other day behind Peniaphobia and Nash (Rawiller), who rides him all the time, said he’s improved since that run. If he draws a gate he could pick up some money. He’s got good gate speed and can go forward and perhaps he might do even better than picking up some money, like Inspiration did for us at 66/1.”

Snow Dragon had a hack canter on the all-weather track.
Work rider Manabu Kumada commented: “He hesitated to get in the box before the flight, but as he saw his travel mate Meiner Lacrima go into the box, he seemed to understand and followed him smoothly. In the quarantine stable he was relaxed and eats up well. We will discuss the work schedule with the trainer later.”

Trainer John Moore said: “He’s primed and ready to go. He wasn’t far away last year and he just needs some luck to be in the finish.”

Straight Girl jogged and then cantered on the all-weather.
Work rider Hiroshi Tanaka said: “She lost some weight due to the transport, but she has a good appetite and will regain the weight. She is relaxed and getting familiarised with her new surroundings. Tomorrow she will work on turf to get familiar with the surface for Thursday’s gallop.”

Little Gerda had an easy workout on the all-weather.
Work rider Takeshi Noda said: “Her appetite was a little less than normal, but it has not detracted from her condition. She is very settled.”

LONGINES Hong Kong Mile

Trainer John Moore said: “Well, he could be anything, couldn’t he? He was brilliant winning the lead-up (BOCHK Wealth Management JC Mile) and he heads our team this year which is the best hand I’ve ever had on International day and not just in quantity but also in quality.”

Cantered on the AWT
Trade Storm, who arrived in Hong Kong on the evening of Saturday 6 December, had his first look at the Sha Tin track this morning.
Trainer David Simcock’s assistant Ian Russell said at trackside, “This is his first time here, but he’s an experienced traveller, and it’s nice to get him out on the track this morning. He seems in good form, and he ran very well last time at the Breeders’ Cup (third in the BC Mile), and I’m hoping he can reproduce that sort of form here.”

Grand Prix Boss had an easy workout on the all-weather track.
Assistant trainer Koji Kubo commented: “He is very fresh and full of beans. He wants to go faster on the track, which means he is in good order. We plan to give him a fast work on Thursday.”

Fiero had an easy canter on the all-weather.
Assistant trainer Takahiro Oto commented: “Thanks to the big number of team Japan, he traveled nicely and was relaxed during the flight. So far, he is in good condition and seems to feel comfortable in the quarantine stable here.”

Slow canter on the all-weather track.
Assistant trainer Mitsuharu Morisawa said, “We just gave him an easy canter today. He was a bit irritated at the export stable before leaving Japan, but I think he has become more relaxed now. The trainer will arrive tonight and will show up at the track tomorrow. We will decide the work schedule then.”

LONGINES Hong Kong Cup

Archimedes put in a slow canter on the all-weather track.
Assistant trainer Toshiya Kubo said: “I was worried about the travelling, because he sometimes has temperament issues. But he travelled with other stablemates and he has settled down. This is his first race up since March but we have given him some tough workouts recently and cantered him even in the morning of the departure day. He is a very talented horse and hopefully we can keep the good condition.”

Easy exercise on the all-weather track.
Trainer David Hayes said: “He was a bit stressed when he arrived here but I’m happy with him now. His coat’s healthy, he’s well hydrated and he looks good. Obviously he’s new to me but we know the horse and he’s a very good mover, pretty classy. I won’t work him too hard this week. I’ll trust him as you should do with a good horse. He had two solid runs in the space of seven days, in the Cox Plate and the Mackinnon Stakes so he came here fit.

“I’m quietly confident he’ll acquit himself well. He’s a Derby winner, going right handed at home, and his recent form’s probably better than it looks. He didn’t have much luck in the Cox Plate and was only a length and a half off them and the really firm track was against him in the Mackinnon at Flemington.”

Trainer John Moore said: “He’ll be peaking at the right time for Sunday. Look at his chart in the form guide, he’s on an upward spiral. He’ll need to step up again from around the 119 rating last time to 122 or 123 and I think he can. Joao (Moreira) knows how to ride him now. He knows when and where to stoke him up. The draw’s not that important as he’ll settle back in any case.”

Cantered on the AWT
Joan Banks, trainer Roger Varian’s travelling head lass, who has been with the horse every step of the way since Farraaj’s departure in mid-September to Australia where he finished third in the G1 Mackinnon Stakes at Flemington said “He’s in good form and has settled in well here. He ran well in Australia, and with luck might have won that day. He’ll do a bit of work on the turf tomorrow.”

Meiner Lacrima had a hack canter on the all-weather track.
Work rider Hirata Tomoharu commented: “This is his second visit to Hong Kong and we had a travel mate Snow Dragon from Tokyo, so he was relaxed at the export stable and during the flight. He is physically settled at the moment and is fit. We will give him a fast gallop on Wednesday.”

Jockey Zac Purton said: “He’s going very well. Caspar (Fownes) was able to win with him first-up and that didn’t flatten him as he then ran so well again second-up behind Blazing Speed. So he’s put two great runs together and we know the 2000m here is perfect for him. Like everybody else, just hoping he can draw a gate.”

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