John Moore trainee Werther exploded to a 4 1/4-length victory in Sunday's Group 1, HK$20 million (US $2,577,967.4) Audemars Piguet Queen Elizabeth II Cup at Sha Tin in Hong Kong. A New Zealand-bred by Tavistock, a Group 1 winner in Australia and New Zealand himself, 4-year-old Werther had previously captured the Hong Kong Derby by a narrow margin in his most recent start.
“Today, he's taken the big step that he needed to take in order to step onto the world stage,” Moore told the South China Morning Post. “And today, against that field, he was world class. It's very exciting and I think we can safely say Hong Kong has another champion in its midst.”
Piloted by Hugh Bowman, Werther may have benefited from the rain-softened going, said Moore. Avoiding the early rush, Werther and Bowman sat behind a wall of seven horses vying for the early lead in the 10 furlong event. Hong Kong Vase winner Highland Reel (trained by Aidan O'Brien) was shuffled back early, taking him out of contention. The favorite, Japanese-trained Lovely Day took the lead at the head of the straight, but Werther and Bowman had been tracking and passed that rival easily, drawing away to an easy victory.
The second-place finisher was Military Attack, winner of the QEII Cup in 2013, followed in third by Blazing Speed, winner of the QEII Cup last year. The favored Lovely Day finished fourth, and Highland Reel was far back in tenth.
“I definitely didn't expect him to race away like he did, but that said, I can't say I was surprised either,” said Bowman of the winner. “There's no other word for it, he was breathtaking late.”
Moore is eyeing Sha Tin's Champions & Chater Cup on May 22, the last Group 1 of the Hong Kong season, as the next race for his charge. Eventually, the trainer hopes that Werther can return to Australia and give him a Group 1 victory in his home country.
Read more at the South China Morning Post.
Watch the race replay here:
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