It was a tale of contrasting fortunes for John Moore’s BMW Hong Kong Derby aspirants at Sha Tin on Saturday as Ruthven stamped his claims for the HK$18 million feature with a tough win in the Class 2 Snipe Handicap (1800m).

Last year’s Queensland Derby winner Ruthven was one of two G1 winners for Moore in the Snipe Handicap, which loomed as a Derby tune-up with seven four-year-olds among the entrants, with Moore’s other runner Rivet scratched at the gates.

“It’s the ups and downs of racing, a mixed result indeed!” Moore said.

“Rivet has always had some poor manners in the gates. Today, he got the near hind leg right over the division between the gates which results in immediate scratching. He trotted up OK, but he will need to go through the gates again. I think he would benefit from gelding eventually, but back to the drawing board with him – he will definitely be a Derby starter if all goes well with the stalls test.”

Once the gates opened, though, Moore’s focus was on Ruthven. The Domesday colt settled third on the rails behind a moderate tempo set by Lucky Girl, with first-time rider Zac Purton allowing him to settle in a perfect trailing position.

Entering the straight, Ruthven was quickly out into clear air and was hard-ridden by Purton to chase the honest Sergeant Titanium, who had assumed the lead. Nevertheless, it took nearly every centimetre of the 430m straight to wear down the front-runner, scoring by a head. David Ferraris-trained Patriot Hero, another Derby entrant, closed nicely into third.

“He did what we hoped today – we hoped to get a bit more fitness out of him, more mileage into his legs and I’m pleased, even though he only just won,” Moore said.

“The further he goes, the better, so he will appreciate the 2000m of the Derby and he’s another good chance for us.

“Still, he’s another one who will appreciate gelding. He’s still a little thick in the wind so getting a bit of weight off will help him.”

Ruthven will carry the colours of owner Albert Hung, who last year took Derby glory with Rapper Dragon. Hung’s son Kevin will also be hoping to have his first runner in the classic with the Moore-trained Rocketeer.