As time runs down for Moore, Beauty Generation offers a lift
HONG KONG – The name suits him – Beauty Generation.
Not that the gelding, bred in New Zealand and campaigned in Australia before being purchased and sent here to Hong Kong, radiates beauty.
“Tough as nails,” trainer John Moore said. “He’s a big boy. Look up close and you’ll see how big he is. Heavy. Very sound. Not much pedigree, but they breed them tough over there in that great volcanic country.”
Beauty Generation was named Montaigne before Patrick Kwok Ho Chuen bought him and brought him to Hong Kong. Ho Chuen is a secondgeneration Hong Kong owner: His father is Kwok Siu-Ming, founder of SaSa Cosmetics, a powerhouse retail chain that spawned the “Beauty” attached to the names of their racing stock.
“Generation” – that fits the horse. This is a generational talent whose local rating, 137, is the highest ever achieved in this jurisdiction. Internationally, the Nov. 4 update of the World Thoroughbred Rankings had Beauty Generation tied for sixth, rated 126. Beauty Generation is Hong Kong’s reigning Horse of the Year, and this season he’s already notched three strong wins and will be heavily favored Sunday at Sha Tin to land his second straight Group 1, $3.2 million Hong Kong Mile.
John Moore also is a secondgeneration Hong Kong horseman. Moore’s father, George, helped launch the modern era of Hong Kong racing when he arrived here in 1971 following a long, successful riding career. John took over the region’s leading stable in 1985. John’s brother Gary, now a trainer in Australia, for years was the main stable rider for George Moore. John rode work and filled in on race day when Gary couldn’t ride. But the generations of Moores training in Hong Kong soon will end. John Moore is 68 and his Hong Kong training career was supposed to stop three years ago.
The Hong Kong Jockey Club manages racing at the granular level and until recently stipulated compulsory retirement for trainers at age 65. Moore was set to pursue another path when the Club created an exception for 64-year-old trainers who, at season’s end, either finished among the top five in wins or had stable earnings of $50 million Hong Kong dollars. Moore got a five-year extension.
“They call it the John Moore rule, but I didn’t come up with it,” Moore said. “I’ve already been advised next season will be my last. So, of course I’m going out with guns firing.”
Moore’s son, also named Gary, bicycles around Sha Tin with his father, watching track work. Gary, 36, is the bloodstock agent for Moore and others here in Hong Kong. He engineered the purchase of the $7 million earner Able Friend and was point man for the acquisition of Beauty Generation. But Gary won’t be a Hong Kong trainer. When Gary decided he wanted out of a banking job and into a racing job, the exigencies of the local system would’ve forced him to the ladder’s lowest rung. It would’ve taken 10 years to even have a chance at a training license.
Moore’s end is nigh, but for now, there’s Beauty Generation, at worst the second-best horse behind Able Friend that Moore has trained. Able Friend was bought at an Australian yearling sale, raced twice in Australia, and then came to Hong Kong, where Moore developed him from a Class 3 handicapper to become Hong Kong’s best horse. For a few months in 2015, Able Friend was the highestrated horse in the world.
Beauty Generation came packaged and ready to enjoy when he arrived in Hong Kong from Australia, where he’d started seven times and was Group 1-placed, yet no one seemed to know exactly what Beauty Generation wanted to do with his racing life. He had run well at seven furlongs and run equally well at 1 3/8 miles, but during his first season here, to his trainer he “appeared useful but no superstar.” As the 2017-18 season approached, Moore took stock of the brute in his barn.
“I thought, ‘This does not look like a horse that should be going over [a distance of] ground,” Moore said. “He’s too robust, a big, broad fellow. I told the owner I’m going to make a good miler out of him.”
And the rest, you might say, is history – though you’d be wrong. Indeed, Beauty Generation won the Hong Kong Mile a year ago, and went on to capture two more Group 1’s and become Hong Kong Horse of the Year. But pundits and local observers – there are plenty here – saw a flawed champion.
“He appeared to be a onetrick pony in that he had to get his own way in front or right on the speed,” Moore said. “There were a lot of scribes out there saying if he doesn’t get his own way, he’ll be beat every time.”
They were saying something different after Beauty Generation rated in sixth and breezed past the pacesetters wining his Hong Kong Mile prep last month in a course-record 1:32.64 for 1,600 meters. That came despite Beauty Generation racing on feet still sore after he was improperly reshod.
“Now people are asking me, ‘What did you do to change him?’ ” Moore said. “I didn’t do anything! The horse just matured. He just settled into this environment.”
If he wins Sunday and the owners are amenable, Beauty Generation will get a look at the wider world. Moore wants to take him to the Dubai Turf in late March or the Queen Anne at Royal Ascot. “That’d be the icing,” he said.
What comes after the icing? What’s certain is 2019-20 will be Moore’s last season training in Hong Kong. He figures his stable will simply be dispersed to other trainers. Maybe he’ll try training in another part of the world. Before getting his Hong Kong license he worked for Charlie Whittingham in California and trainers in Australia, Ireland, France.
“I know I can train in Europe,” he said. “Just give me a field.”
Moore has the horse of a lifetime and is set for life, yet he doesn’t know what life will bring. It’s one thing to go out on top, another to be forced out.
“I’ve already been advised next season will be my last. So, of course I’m going out with guns firing.”
– trainer John Moore