Beauty Generation one to beat
HONG KONG – The horse has wide, tender feet that are susceptible to soreness, this Beauty Generation. His personality around the stables at Sha Tin Racecourse comes straight out of cell block A.
“He’s a bit of a head case,” said trainer John Moore. “He’ll savage you; he’ll kick you. You’ve got to get to know him.”
Moore joked he might invest in a heavy padded falconer’s glove for the horse’s groom. Or maybe he wasn’t joking.
If Beauty Generation wins the $3.2 million Hong Kong Mile for the second year in a row on Sunday, there will be plenty of finances for any kind of protection the groom needs. And if it’s to be a falconer’s glove, fine – Beauty Generation could easily wind up in Dubai for the $6 million Dubai Turf in March.
It took the horse (gelding, actually) the better part of two full Hong Kong seasons to win over the harder cynics here. Even now, there’s still a lingering air of doubt. Beauty Generation, once a confirmed frontrunner, finally settled and finished winning the BOCHK Mile last month at Sha Tin, but drifted out to the middle of the racecourse through the homestretch.
The same thing – at least a hint of it – happened again Thursday morning when Beauty Generation and regular rider Zac Purton went through a stronger gallop (they’d call it a canter here in Hong Kong) prompting Moore to say some interesting things at a Thursday morning press conference.
“I think the horse is getting into a little bit of a habit,” he said. “He has a tendency to get his head on the side on the right and tends to hang out that bit. When Zac rode him this morning he fanned on the corner and it appeared he was hanging out that little bit. But afterwards we went through with a fine-toothed comb – with the vet and the farriers – and as far as we’re concerned, he’s sound.”
Moore also made a somewhat cryptic remark when asked how he was handling the pressure of having the star of Sunday’s Hong Kong International Races. He said he was taking it all in stride – but some people in the stable were struggling more.
All this could mean nothing – but there are things to consider with a favorite who’ll be odds-on to beat 13 rivals in the 1,600-meter one-turn Mile.
Last year’s Hong Kong Mile was Beauty Generation’s breakthrough race. He followed up with two more Group 1 wins last season and has won all three of his starts this Hong Kong season. His connections played up his supposed lack of fitness before his seasonal debut, and then Beauty Generation went out and won a Group 3 stakes by more than three lengths, setting a course record for 1,400 meters.
“The favorite, he’s a good horse – a very good horse,” said Ryan Moore, who rides 4-yearold filly One Master in the Mile. “He’ll be very tough.”
One Master has come around sharply late this year, scoring easily her biggest win in the Group 1 Prix de a Foret on the Arc undercard at Longchamp and finishing a sneaky-good fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Mile. There, One Master got bogged down on the deeper inside part of the Churchill Downs turf course but plugged along to finish only one length behind victorious Expert Eye.
There’s also a Japanese female, Vivlos, entered in the Mile along with two Japanese colts, Mozu Ascot and Persian Knight. The latter is rated higher than the former, but Mozu Ascot holds a hint of appeal at a price.
“Mozu Ascot was very unlucky last time in the Mile Championship,” said jockey Christophe Lemaire. “If the pace is strong, he’ll have a chance.”
The race also includes an Australian, Comin’ Through, the French colt Inns of Court, and the English gelding Beat the Bank. They all might be entering the lair of a monster.
“This is his town, this is his track,” said Moore of Beauty Generation.
Appealing array in Vase
Hong Kong’s best horses generally are sprinters and milers, and rare is a race at any level at 1 1/2 miles. Yet the best race, top to bottom, on the Hong Kong International Races card is the 1 1/2-mile Hong Kong Vase.
The field for the Group 1, $2.56 million race is 14 strong and includes 10 international shippers from Japan and Europe, including Irish Derby winner Latrobe, the first Hong Kong starter for trainer Joseph O’Brien, and Rostropovich, trained by Joseph’s dad, Aidan O’Brien.
The elder O’Brien won this race a year ago with international star Highland Reel, but Rostropovich has no such credentials. He has collected a mighty mass of air miles, having flown from Ireland to Australia and back for the Cox Plate and Melbourne Cup in October and November before leaving home again for Hong Kong.
Jockey Ryan Moore, principal rider for Aidan O’Brien, might not be keen on his chances since Moore winds up on the improving 4-yearold Mirage Dancer for trainer Michael Stoute. Mirage Dancer has made a strong favorable impression training this week and has a top pedigree (by Frankel out of Heat Haze), but he is only a Group 3 winner who never has started in a Group 1.
“He has the potential to get better, but he’s got to improve,” said Moore.
Waldgeist is the Vase’s toprated runner, but has started seven times in a campaign that began in April and also included a trip to the Breeders’ Cup Turf, where Waldgeist finished a well-beaten fifth. A relatively small son of Galileo, Waldgeist does not give off strong signs of vitality right now.
Prince of Arran breaks from post 14 but there’s room to operate before the Vase field hits the first of two turns. He comes out of a fine third in the two-mile Melbourne Cup, worked well here Thursday, and should prefer this shorter distance, according to trainer Charlie Fellowes.
Eziyra was no match for Sistercharlie in the BC Filly and Mare Turf but could run into a placing with a top performance Sunday. Another European, Salouen, ran his best race on soft ground when he nearly upset Cracksman in the Coronation Cup.
Eagle Way and Exultant finished one-two last month in a BOCHK Jockey Club Cup, where a taxing tempo set the race up for their closing runs. Zac Purton, Exultant’s jockey, said Thursday he had been disappointed Exultant couldn’t best Eagle Way given the race dynamics.
The Japanese mare Crocosmia figures to set the pace, while the Japanese filly Lys Gracieux tries to stretch her recent Group-1 winning form from 2,200 to 2,400 meters.