Star Tavistock performer Werther ready for Group One comeback

21 Feb 2017

Star Tavistock galloper Werther took on the champion's mantle with a demolition job of a win in last season's Gr.1 Audemars Piguet QEII Cup (2000m) in Hong Kong.

On Sunday, the five-year-old, second-up after an injury lay-off, will aim to put his career back on to its lofty trajectory in the Gr.1 Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup (2000m) at Sha Tin.

The son of Cambridge Stud's crack Montjeu stallion Tavistock, Werther landed the first of two course and distance successes in the Gr.1 Hong Kong Derby last March.

He missed the first part of this season after sustaining a right hind proximal suspensory injury back in August. He returned to action a month ago, posting a promising sixth of 12 in the Gr.1 Stewards' Cup at a mile.

"I was very pleased with his last run. It was what I expected, given the stop-start prep he's had," trainer John Moore said.

"There's no doubt he has a bit of improvement to come but, looking at the field, I think he has enough about him."

Hong Kong's Horse of the Year will face only six opponents. Stablemate Designs On Rome is shooting for a hat-trick in this contest, while another veteran of the division, Blazing Speed, is also engaged. But with those two rivals both seemingly past their prime, the biggest threats to a Werther win could come from December's Hong Kong Cup runner-up Secret Weapon and Hong Kong Mile victor Beauty Only.

Moore is looking to the skies for that little advantage Werther might require to make up for any lack of race sharpness.

"Judging by what the weatherman has said there's some rain on the way, so there could be a cut in the ground, and we know what he can do when there's a cut in the ground - look what he did in the QEII. If that materialises, I think he's the one to beat in the race."

Werther spread-eagled a top class field in last April's QEII Cup at Sha Tin. The New Zealand-bred relished the yielding going and sluiced to a 4 1/2-length victory ahead of the likes of Ireland's Highland Reel and Japan's Satono Crown, Lovely Day and Nuovo Record.

The Johnson Chen-owned gelding proved a handful when he returned to training in early December, fighting for his head, hanging out at the gallop and even dropping his work rider.

But Werther has been on good behaviour since the Stewards' Cup.

"The freshness was getting the better of him when he first came back into work but he's not playing games at the moment," Moore said.

"We're even happier going into Sunday. I think he'll be very competitive in the race."

And if all goes to plan at the weekend, Moore is considering a trip to Dubai for Chen's star. The trainer has entered Werther for the Gr.1 Dubai Turf (1800m) and the Gr.1 Dubai Sheema Classic (2410m) at Meydan.

"I made entries for him to go to Dubai but he hasn't been invited yet," Moore said.

"I'll wait and see how he runs and then I'll go to Johnson and ask if it's a possibility. I'd like to run him in the 1800m race at Meydan, but we'll see. We've taken the freshness out of him, so I think he'd be good to travel. He has travelled before, so it's not a problem - he's done New Zealand to Adelaide, across to Brisbane, and he came here and got straight into it." - HKJC