The progressive Designs On Rome (4g Holy Roman Emperor-Summer Trysting, by Alleged) came out best in an epic duel with stablemate Able Friend for the HKG1 Hong Kong Derby at Sha Tin on Sunday.
“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 winner, a son of Holy Roman Emperor bred in Ireland by Moyglare Stud, was lining up after a victory over Able Friend in the Hong Kong Classic on February 16, a local G1, Moore was celebrating a fourth win in Hong Kong’s domestic blue riband event, just one day ahead of turning 64.
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.
“Designs On Rome will come back for the G1 QEII Cup. My two fellas are world class and they’ll go on to the world stage, eventually.”