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Designs on Rome wins Hong Kong Derby

It was billed as a clash of two John Moore-trained titans and the HKG1 BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) did not disappoint. Designs On Rome and Able Friend delivered the epic duel everyone had hoped for at Sha Tin racecourse this afternoon, Sunday, 16 March, with the former emerging victorious.

“A race like that is one of the biggest thrills in racing, it’s a rare thing – this has got to be almost right at the top for me,” said winning jockey Tommy Berry, after driving his mount to a half-length verdict. “John’s been a massive help to me and he’s put a lot of trust in me. To ride a horse like this – he’s probably one of the best horses I’ve ever sat on.”

The two Moore horses had dominated the first two legs of the Hong Kong Four-Year-Old Series with Able Friend winning the first leg, the Hong Kong Classic Mile, only for Designs On Rome to turn the tables in the second, the Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m), before claiming the series in today’s deciding leg.

Moore was celebrating a fourth win in Hong Kong’s domestic blue riband event (1995 Makarpura Star, 2006 Viva Pataca, 2009 Collection), just one day ahead of turning 64, and as his pair thundered down the home straight, he admitted to thinking “either one, please” as the Michael Chang-trained Dibayani powered home under Zac Purton to finish only a neck in arrears of Able Friend in third. That evidently talented trio was almost sixth lengths clear of fourth-placed Mr Gnocchi.  

Berry had settled Designs On Rome in the last pair, just behind the Joao Moreira-ridden Able Friend and alongside Dibayani, as Beauty Flame set a solid tempo up front. When the field of 14 passed the half-way point, Berry was seen to niggle Designs On Rome; with 700m to race, the Australian was pumping with force; at the 600m he was sitting still, his mount back on the bridle and cruising within striking distance of the leaders.

And as the Derby contenders swept around the home turn, the near 60,000 crowd knew it was in for a treat. Designs On Rome on the wide outside and Able Friend towards the inner came together at the 250m point in almost perfect synchrony. The Moore duo battled head-to-head with Able Friend twice edging the argument only to be put in his place with a final determined surge from Designs On Rome that took the Holy Roman Emperor gelding half a length clear at the wire. The winning time was 2m 02.04s, marginally quicker than standard.      

“I thought Able Friend had me but he pinned his ears back and wanted to win,” said Berry of the Cheng Keung Fai-owned victor. “He scares me every time I ride him because he never travels in a race for you – you always have to ask him a little bit. That’s what makes this horse so good, he’s a relaxed type.

“Good horses can do what this horse did today and what Able Friend’s done previously, they can make that run at about the 700m and put themselves into the race, and then they relax again and switch off. And then you ask again for that second effort, and today he gave a third effort when Able Friend came at him that last 200m. I’m looking forward to both horses going on to conquer Australia because I believe they’re both good enough to go there.”

Moore had stated previously his belief that both Designs On Rome and Able Friend are top bracket performers, and he repeated that statement as he outlined plans for his duo.

“Designs On Rome looks to have a serious future,” he asserted. “As I’ve said before, he has international Group 1 written all over him and the way he did it today he proved he can make quite a few runs and he can keep kicking – and he’s got the desire to really kick hard. When Able Friend came up on his inside, he fought back gamely and that’s a good horse.

“We’ll bring Able Friend back for the (G1) Champions Mile and Designs On Rome will come back for the (G1) AP QEII Cup. My two fellas are world class and they’ll go on to the world stage, eventually.”

The overall attendance at Hong Kong’s racecourses was 63,933, with the 59,080 in attendance at Sha Tin creating an electric Derby atmosphere.

From Hong Kong Jockey Club



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