John Moore’s in-form galloper Able Friend may be drawn wide for Sunday’s 2014 Hong Kong Mile but the expat Aussie horseman is still confident his odds-on favourite can get the job done and successfully defend his title.
Shamardal five-year-old Able Friend suffered a blow coming up with the outside barrier 11 draw for this year’s HK$23 million Group 1 The Longines Hong Kong Mile (1600m) at Sha Tin Racecourse, a race he won 12 months ago over Designs On Rome.
Despite the gate, five wider than he won from last year, he sits as the firm $1.90 favourite in the Hong Kong Mile odds at Ladbrokes.com.au with ‘The Magic Man’ Joao Moreira retaining the ride.
The Brazilian-born Moreira was aboard the gelding last start on November 23 when the pair combined to score an authoritative two and a half-length victory over Gold-Fun in the Group 2 Jockey Club Mile (1600m).
That powerful win came second-up and is an effort Moore is hoping the horse can repeat despite having to overcome the outside alley when back over the track and distance on Sunday.
Moore has seven runners across the four Hong Kong International Races this year, and while Able Friend was the only one to draw double figures he’s also his shortest priced hope of the day.
“It’s a not an issue,” Moore said at the barrier draw on Thursday.
“Joao (Moreira) will still be looking for some cover and you’d rather draw a touch further in but he’s such a versatile horse it shouldn’t be a problem.
“Hopefully there’s some speed up front and he can slot in. If not, so be it. I can assure you we will still be going in with very high hopes.”
Three of the past four Hong Kong mile winners all had outside barriers with: Glorious Days (13), Ambitious Dragon (11) and Beauty Flash (14) – further boosting Moore’s and the punters’ confidence.
Last year’s runner-up Gold-Fun is also back in 2014 for another shot looking to turn the tables on Able Friend having also finished second behind Sunday’s short-priced favourite in the Jockey Club Mile last time out.
The local Le Vie Dei Colori gelding is again ridden by Douglas Whyte and jumps from barrier six, two wider than his Jockey Club Mile draw.
“Very happy with six and very happy with the horse,” his trainer Richard Gibson said.
“He’s in really good shape. Now it’s fingers crossed time for a trouble-free run.”
Not quite as happy with his horse’s draw was Japan’s Hideaki Fujiwara who would have preferred a midfield gate over the inside alley for the versatile Fiero.
“Middle to outside is what I hoped most but I suppose now he will be able to travel on the rail, saving for a late run,” he said.
“We will find the right tactics and he is very versatile.”
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