“The title will go to the last day in my opinion,” the handler said after the Zac Purton-ridden Buddies streaked home in the opening Class 4 Kiu Tsui Handicap (1650m) on Sha Tin’s all-dirt card tonight, Wednesday, 8 May.
The victory took Moore’s season’s tally to 54, pushing him briefly into clear second in the premiership race just six behind defending champion John Size.
“I’m ecstatic about getting that win up to keep the stable winning numbers rolling,” he added, having left the track with a treble at the weekend.
Moore went into this evening’s eight-race fixture with nine wins from his last 50 starters, a strike rate of 18%. Size, on the other hand, had pocketed four wins from his latest 50 runners – an 8% strike rate.
“The championship is wide open, the next two weeks will be a telling factor with respect to the premiership, how entries fall into place, what gates you draw, what jockey you have on board,” Moore said.
“You have to remember that John (Size) and I have horses at Conghua so we do have the benefit of that in numbers. I’ve got 15 to 20 horses rotating and those horses have given me the feeling that coming over here they’re going to do very well and that gives us a very good chance of winning the premiership.”
Size will be tough to overcome though. The nine-time champion struck back when Ping Hai Star prevailed in the finale, the Class 3 Clear Water Bay Handicap (1650m), under Joao Moreira.
Moore and Size are not engaged in an exclusive duel for top spot either. Second-season trainer Frankie Lor, runner-up to his old boss Size last term, looks likely to make it a closely-matched ‘three-horse race’ even without the benefit of Conghua.
Lor took his total to a Moore-matching 54 wins when Glorious Artist won race six, the Class 2 Cafeteria Handicap (1650m) under Purton. And he regained second spot in the table when Coby Oppa ensured a race-to-race double under Karis Teetan in the Class 3 Cheung Sha Handicap (1200m).
“It’s hard to say, it depends on the horses,” Lor said when asked about his championship chances. “I don't want to push them too hard. I’ll see how the horses are, they come first.”
As for Buddies, Purton fired the Moore-trained three-year-old to the fore from his wide berth in gate 12. The thrice-raced maiden fulfilled the promise of a recent barrier trial to kick clear for a two and a half-length score at odds of 4.2.
“The horse had very good natural speed and the outside gate was something of a positive because of tonight’s conditions – it’s very sloppy out there and there’s a lot of kickback, which some horses won't enjoy,” Moore said.
“He got to the front, set his own speed and was able to really enjoy the rhythm he was in. Coming to the corner I thought there was only one horse sitting in behind him that might be able to overhaul him but my fella had plenty in the tank. It wasn’t necessary for Zac to give him a few smacks.”
Me Tsui had been sitting on 499 career wins for two weeks and 22 runners but hit the 500 when Sky Treasure boxed clear in section two of the Class 4 Hap Mun Bay Handicap (1200m) under Derek Leung.
The handler was beaming as the horse returned to stand beneath the winner’s arch but retained his cool and delivered a dose of self-deprecating perspective to the gaggle of reporters.
“Five hundred is not that big of an achievement when someone else already has more than 1000 winners,” he smiled (Moore leads the all-time standings with 1,656 wins).
“The jockey was very aggressive,” he added, “he kept his position on the rail and the horse won very well.”
Tsui did not linger on the 500 mark. The handler moved on to 501 in the next race as Exponents claimed the Class 5 Silvermine Bay Handicap (1200m) under Grant van Niekerk at odds of 21/1.
General Dino had to wait until his 25th race to land his first Hong Kong success but the French import has clearly found his groove and made it three on the bounce in the Class 4 Pui O Handicap (1800m).
The five-year-old looked set for second when the Purton-ridden Enfolding rolled up to him in the closing stages but responded to a firm Teetan drive to rally and score by a neck.
“My stable vet just cured up his lung problem and he’s a different horse,” trainer David Ferraris said. “He’s a very courageous little horse to win in the mud – the other horse had him beaten and he found another gear.”
Michael Chang edged closer to the 16-win benchmark with his 13th success this term. Moreira drove the eight-year-old Grand Harbour to his sixth win at start 84 in section one of the Class 4 Hap Mun Bay Handicap (1200m).
Hong Kong racing continues at Sha Tin on Saturday, 11 May.