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Werther a Superlative Winner of the QE II

8th at SHT, HK$20mG1 Audemars Piguet QE II Cup (2000m)Winner: Werther (NZ), g, 4 by Tavistock (NZ)

Werther bolts up in the QE II | HKJC photo

Sunday’s G1 Audemars Piguet Queen Elizabeth II Cup at Sha Tin was mooted to be one of the strongest renewals in the race’s history, having attracted no fewer than seven Group 1 winners from Hong Kong, Ireland, Japan, Australia and South Africa, via Dubai. The horse with arguably the greatest upside heading into the race was Werther (NZ) (Tavistock {NZ}), who had done nothing wrong in four tries over the Sha Tin turf, having already proven himself in Australasia prior to his arrival in Hong Kong. Could Werther become the latest 4-year-old sensation to prove his mettle against established older gallopers? No one would have ruled out that possibility, but the Hong Kong Derby hero turned the QE II into a demolition derby, making his rivals look fairly ordinary in winning the HK$20-million event by 4 1/2 imperious lengths. The margin of victory, achieved over a course given a rare downgrade to yielding, was the second-largest in the history of the race, dating back to Quicken Away in 1990.

Sunday, Sha Tin, Hong Kong
AUDEMARS PIGUET QUEEN ELIZABETH II CUP-G1, HK$20,000,000 (£1,798,135/€2,282,626/A$3,315,722/US$2,578,324), 3yo/up, 2000mT, 2:01.32, yl.
1–&WERTHER (NZ), 126, g, 4, by Tavistock (NZ)
1st Dam: Bagalollies (Aus), by Zabeel (NZ)
2nd Dam: Lady’s Night, by Ascot Knight
3rd Dam: Night Stand, by Fluorescent Light
O-Johnson Chen; B-C D Allison, C V & J A Barnao, A R Campbell, T G Heptinstall, T M Pivac & D R Platt; T-John Moore; J-Hugh Bowman; HK$11,400,000. Lifetime Record: GSW & MG1SP-Aus, GSW-NZ, 18-7-6-2, HK$30,887,150. Click for the eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree. Werk Nick Rating: A+++ *Triple Plus*.
2–Military Attack (Ire), 126, g, 8, Oratorio (Ire)–Almaaseh (Ire), by Dancing Brave. (€40,000 Ylg ‘09 GOFSPT). O-Canny Leung; B-P E Banahan; T-Caspar Fownes; J-Nash Rawiller; HK$4,400,000.
3–Blazing Speed (GB), 126, g, 7, Dylan Thomas (Ire)–Leukippids (Ire), by Sadler’s Wells. (45,000gns RNA Wlg ‘09 TATDEC; 45,000gns RNA Ylg ‘10 TATOCT; 41,000gns Ylg ‘10 TATDEC). O-Fentons Racing Syndicate; B-J Sankey; T-Tony Cruz; HK$2,000,000.
Margins: 4HF, 1 1/4, NK. Odds: 9-2, 70-1, 24-1.
Also Ran: Lovely Day (Jpn), Designs On Rome (Ire), Nuovo Record (Jpn), Helene Happy Star (Ire), Highland Reel (Ire), Ertijaal (Aus), Rising Romance (NZ), Horse of Fortune (SAf), Satono Crown (Jpn), Helene Super Star.
Click for the chart, PPs and VIDEO. Click for the free catalogue-style pedigree.

Some 367 days ago, Werther was proving too good in the G2 Championship S. at Ellerslie while under the care of trainer Andrew Campbell, who also orchestrated the career of this emerging young sire. He then launched a successful raid on Australia, winning the G2 Eagle Farm Cup in Brisbane between runner-up efforts in the G1 South Australian Derby in Adelaide and in the G1 Queensland Derby back at Doomben.

A deal was brokered by Magic Millions’ David Chester and Gary Moore and Werther was off to these parts, where he belied odds of 16-1 on the international races undercard to take his Class 2 debut. Second to Sun Jewellery (Aus) (Snitzel {Aus}) in the Hong Kong Classic Mile and in the Hong Kong Classic Cup in his next two outings, the bay came from a fairly prominent position to take out the Derby by a head Mar. 20. Horses the likes of Vengeance of Rain (NZ) (Zabeel {NZ}), Viva Pataca (GB) (Marju {Ire}), Ambitious Dragon (NZ) (Pins {Aus}) and Designs On Rome (Ire) (Holy Roman Emperor {Ire}) managed to follow up against international competition in this race and beyond, and Werther was well-backed to join those elite runners.

Drawn gate five, the best-fancied of the John Moore trio jumped well enough to race just behind the early speed, as no fewer than six of his fellow rivals scrimmaged for the early supremacy. Japan’s warm-blooded Satono Crown (Jpn) (Marju {Ire}) led at the top of the first turn, but was displaced up front by Helene Super Star (War Front) turning down the back of the track as the pace proved a genuine one. Race favorite Lovely Day (Jpn) (King Kamehameha {Jpn}) landed in a good, ground-saving spot on the back of Satono Crown, while Bowman settled Werther four from the tail with Designs On Rome the back-marker, as expected, but within 10 of the lead. Helene Super Star (War Front) still led at the third corner, by which time Lovely Day had crept right into the slipstream of the leader, with Bowman sliding Werther up into a striking position inside of G1 Longines Hong Kong Vase hero Highland Reel (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) as they approached the point of the home turn.

Having gone fairly hard throughout, Helene Super Star called it a day 400 metres out and Lovely Day drove through underneath that spent rival to take it up shortly after. But Werther stalked the favorite into the stretch, was switched to his inner with about a furlong and a half to race and shot away to win by a margin nearly nobody could have predicted. Military Attack (Ire) (Oratorio {Ire}), the 2013 winner when trained by Moore, rallied from the back of the pack to be second ahead of defending champion Blazing Speed (GB) (Dylan Thomas {Ire}). Lovely Day just held for fourth ahead of Designs On Rome. In his wake was not only Highland Reel, but also G1 Hong Kong Cup runner-up Nuovo Record (Jpn) (Heart’s Cry {Jpn}), G1 Cape Derby winner and G1 Dubai Turf fourth Ertijaal (Aus) (Hard Spun) and G1 Australian Oaks victrix Rising Romance (NZ) (Ekraar).

When the dust had settled, even Werther’s connections were dumbfounded by the performance.

“I was never expecting that,” said a beaming Moore, winning the QE II for the fifth time overall and third time in four years. “We did know he handled the heavy track in New Zealand and that it wouldn’t be a problem today–but that was beyond my expectations. Next we’ll go to the [G1] Champions & Chater Cup over a mile and a half here [May 22] and Hugh will be back to ride him,” he said, adding with a hopeful smile and raised eyebrows, “then we’ll give him a break and I’ll be trying to pull the owner’s leg to go back to Australia for the [G1] Cox Plate.”

Added Bowman, regular rider of 2015 Cox Plate winner Winx (Aus) (Street Cry {Ire}), “I had a suspicion after the Derby we would see a better horse against better opposition but I certainly didn’t expect him to perform to the level he did this afternoon. The reason you haven’t seen that turn of foot is because I’ve been riding him more tactically aware. I’ve had him up close; I’ve had him travelling a bit stronger than I did today. Today I allowed him to really relax throughout the race and we’ve seen the best of him.”

The winner’s dam is represented by a 2-year-old filly by Pour Moi (Ire)–like Tavistock a son of Montjeu–and full-sisters to Werther in each of the last two years. Bagalollies’s 2014 produce was purchased by Sona Bloodstock for NZ$300,000 at the NZB Premier Yearling Sale this past January.

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