A barge trip to Hong Kong to chase that elusive Group One victory may be out of the question but Thanks Forever could still get a chance to compete at the highest level again after a solid return to the racetrack in Macau on Saturday.
Forced out of Hong Kong in September last year after bleeding for a second time not long after switching from the care of John Moore to Tony Cruz, two-time Group One placegetter Thanks Forever is now trained by Nicholas Moore, the son of legendary jockey-turned-trainer Gary Moore and nephew of the galloper’s former handler.
The six-year-old finished a narrow second in his first run since his fourth in the Group Three Premier Cup (1,400m) at Sha Tin in June last year, prompting Nicholas Moore to put the Group One Al Quoz Sprint (1,200m) on Dubai World Cup night on the agenda.
“We’re probably going to run him on the sand on the 12th of November, there’s a 1,050m on that day. I’m just going to keep him fresh and keep him racing at shorter distances and depending on Covid restrictions, see if we can maybe get an invite for Dubai,” Moore said.
“There’s not much for him here, there’s probably only the Macau Hong Kong Trophy towards the middle of the year and that’s about it, there will be some Class Ones here and there.”
Thanks Forever finished his Hong Kong career on a rating of 123 and that mark makes him Macau’s highest-rated galloper, with the gelding carrying 133 pounds in Saturday’s Class One & Two Magic Millions 2021 Gold Coast 2YOS In Training Sale Stakes (1,200m) at Taipa racecourse.
In a race where the jockey of red-hot favourite Star Of Yiu Cheung lost his irons in the early stages – an incident that is the subject of an adjourned inquiry – Thanks Forever sat box seat as the $7 second elect and shot to the lead in the home straight before being grabbed in the last stride by $14 chance Gon Sai Baau.
“He’s pulled up really well, he was a little bit rusty not having raced for 16 months. We thought he was home, he did a couple of things wrong – he was three or four deep in the straight and he wanted to look for the fence,” Moore said.
“He just looked a bit lost out there and it looked like he was a little bit new to the scene, but he hit the line really well.
“He came back in really good order, he didn’t blow as hard as I thought he would and overall he’s pulled up really well – he cleaned up his feed and he looks great so he’s only going to improve for that run.”
While initial hopes of bringing Thanks Forever back to Hong Kong were scuppered by rules that make any two-time bleeder automatically ineligible to be entered in a race in the jurisdiction, Moore is hopeful of an extended campaign in Dubai for the 2020 Centenary Sprint Cup runner-up.
He’s identified the Group Two Meydan Sprint (1,000m) in February as a potential starting point and highlighted the Group Three Nad Al Sheba Turf Sprint (1,200m) as another option on the way to the Al Quoz Sprint in late March.
“I just have to talk to the owners and I’ll relay some of the messages to uncle John and see what he thinks, but he told me he reckons the straight in Dubai over six furlongs will be his go, so that’s an option we’re looking at,” Moore said.
Thanks Forever’s biggest Hong Kong success came in the 2020 Group Three Sha Tin Vase (1,200m) while he also won three times over 1,000m down the straight as a youngster on his way to five wins from 17 starts and over HK$13.5 million in prize money.