Werther seals HK 2000m champion status

19 Nov 2017

Tavistock gelding Werther enhanced his status as Hong Kong’s middle distance standout with a scintillating victory in the Gr.2 BOCHK Jockey Club Cup (2000m) at Sha Tin on Sunday.

Next month’s HK$25 million Gr.1 Hong Kong Cup at the course and distance is all that stands between the six-year-old and a career sweep of Hong Kong’s premier 2000m contests.

Werther has already sealed wins in the Hong Kong Derby, QEII Cup and Hong Kong Gold Cup and Sunday's triumph was just the lead-up to Hong Kong’s richest race connections had been hoping for.

“He’s exactly where we want him to be. There are exciting times ahead,” said winning jockey Tommy Berry.

Werther had to call on his champion’s grit in the closing stages to outpoint runner-up Time Warp by a neck.

The New Zealand-bred was blowing hard when he came back to the winner’s arch, but emphasised his wellbeing with a brash kick at the air as he made his exit.

“That was a cracking good run considering it was his second run this season,” said trainer John Moore, who was registering a fifth success in the race.

“His fitness was really tested and he will improve for this run. The speed that Harbour Master went up front today really tested his fitness level, which wasn’t 100 percent. We got away with it and now we go to the Hong Kong Cup. He’ll come away from this race in better fettle for that grand final.”

Werther settled fourth, nine lengths behind his bounding stablemate Harbour Master, and had to work to make ground into the final turn. Time Warp, positioned second under Joao Moreira, kicked past the fading leader with 400m to race, as Berry got tough in pursuit on the former Horse of the Year.

The son Cambridge Stud's boom Montjeu stallion Tavistock responded to Berry’s drive, and, despite Time Warp rolling out towards Werther in the run to the line, the white-blazed bay maintained a determined locomotion to earn the spoils in a time of 2min1.52.

“He’s not fully fit and he’s beaten them all there carrying a five-pound penalty, so that gives us confidence for three weeks’ time,” Moore said.

Intermittent rainfall over the weekend meant that there was a slight cushion in the Sha Tin turf and Berry believed that was beneficial to the horse, whose best ever performance remains a wet track victory in the 2016 Gr.1 QEII Cup (2000m).

“He’s really come on since his first run when we thought he’d a finish a bit closer than he did, and I think the cut in the track today really suited him,” Berry said.

“I said before today that he’ll be spot on for December and I think that showed. He just ran out of gas a bit the last 100m and Joao took me off my course a little bit where he lost his balance. All in all he’s going great and I’m looking forward to December with him."

Werther became the first favourite to win the race since Viva Pataca scored in 2008.

The victory completed a stellar weekend for broodmare Bagalollies, who had Werther's younger brother Gobstopper score a bold front-running victory in the Gr.3 New Zealand Cup (3200m) on Saturday.

Both were bred by Tommy Heptinstall, Andrew Campbell, Tom Pivac, John and Chris Barnao, David Allison and David Platt. - HKJC