Michael Moroney has a pair of in-form New Zealand-bred prospects chasing feature events at Randwick on Saturday and is desperately hoping a third can also be presented with his opportunity.
The expatriate Kiwi trainer has Satono Aladdin’s son Japanese Emperor in the Group 1 Australian Derby (2400m) while Nerve Not Verve, a daughter of Shocking, will defend her title in the Group 2 Chairman’s Quality (2600m).
The other member of the team in Sydney is Bankers Choice and the Mongolian Khan five-year-old needs one more defection to come off the ballot for a crack at the Group 1 Doncaster Mile (1600m).
The lightly raced Japanese Emperor is the highest-priced representative of his sire to date and in his last two runs has showed why Moroney and brother Paul parted with $360,000 to secure him out of Rich Hill Stud’s draft at Karaka.
He ran third in the Group 1 Australian Guineas (1600m) at Flemington at a three-figure quote and showed that was no flash in the pan when again third in the Group 2 Alister Clark Stakes (2040m) at Moonee Valley.
“We’ve always known he’s pretty good and that’s why we threw him in at the deep end this time pretty quickly and he’s raced really well,” Moroney said.
“He’s proved he’s not that far off them and he’s been a bit chubby this time in and I’ve been half a run behind and hope we’re not still.
“I’ve poured the work into him and he’s handled it really well.”
Moroney was initially a touch disheartened with Japanese Emperor’s run in the Alister Clark, but was forgiving after the event.
“He got a good run through and wouldn’t have beaten the winner, but I was a fraction disappointed that he didn’t run second,” he said.
“To be fair to him though, he had a closed eye an hour after the race and obviously copped one and that’s probably why he ducked back in and didn’t quite round off the last bit.”
A post-race assessment from rider Daniel Stackhouse encouraged Moroney to head to Sydney with the gelding.
“Daniel was adamant that he ran through the line well enough and couldn’t see any reason not to run him,” he said.
“It may be touch and go on breeding whether he gets the trip, but every time we’ve raised the bar he’s been up to it.”
Japanese Emperor has won one of his five starts and has come back to top form strongly after his first preparation was cut short.
“He’s always looked pretty smart, but he had a bit of a hiccup in the spring which was disappointing,” Moroney said.
“I ran him the day they shouldn’t have run the race (Group 3 Caulfield Guineas Prelude, 1400m) when it poured with rain and it frazzled him and I had to turn him out.”
Nerve Not Verve was a close and unlucky last-start second in the Group 2 Auckland Cup (3200m) and arrived in Sydney last Sunday for her Chairman’s defence and the Group 1 Sydney Cup (3200m) on Saturday week.
“She’s a very good staying mare and I thought she was a tragedy beaten in the Auckland Cup,” Moroney said.
“Last year was a bit of a mistake when she won this race and beat the subsequent Sydney Cup winner (Knight’s Order), but she was going to be sold so we never put her in the Cup.
“We’re due a turn and it’s a stronger version this year, but she’s going as well and she’s a tough mare and we’ll back up in the Cup as long as everything is okay.”
The Doncaster has been the long-term target for Bankers Choice and Moroney has his fingers crossed for the opportunity to execute the plan.
“We’ve aimed him at this for a while and really think he’s the right one,” he said.
“We knew we had to take the freshness out of his legs because he’s a hard going horse. A mile at good pace will be right up his alley.”
Bankers Choice has just 51kg in the Doncaster after carrying 57kg when third in the Group 2 Blamey Stakes (1600m) and 59kg when unplaced in the Group 1 Ranvet Stakes (2000m) last time out.
“We’ve done the weights and measures and have to say he would be right in it. He’s been trudging around with a lot of weight and we just hope he makes the field,” Moroney said.