Beauty Generation, one of the best racehorses in the world on official figures, swaggered at the walk, sprang to a lope, and cruised at the gallop yesterday at Sha Tin, three days out from the BOCHK (Bank of China Hong Kong) Wealth Management Jockey Club Mile, one of three extra-important races at the track on Sunday.
The Jockey Club Mile, together with the BOCHK Jockey Club Cup (2000m) and the BOCHK Wealth Management Jockey Club Sprint (1200m), are lavishly endowed G2 trials for the mega-rich Hong Kong International Races on December 9.
Hong Kong champion Zac Purton, currently world #15 in the TRC Global Rankings, was in the plate for the gelding’s two prior starts this term - impressive wins, both - and he took the reins through the 6.45am solo spin around the turf track. Sparks didn’t fly but they didn't need to: Beauty Generation’s motion was fluent, his primed frame a picture of contained power as he breezed down the home straight in an easy 27 seconds (400m), following fractions of 30.9s and 32.0s.
“He just went through his paces this morning,” Purton said. “His work today was fine. He’s quite relaxed when he’s out there on the grass on his own. He just cruises around. He’s a lovely horse to ride.”
Trainer John Moore was content with the work, a more fluid showing than when Purton galloped the Horse of the Year last Saturday. “Zac mentioned that he felt better than the last time he galloped him,” said the world’s 14th ranked trainer. “He’s holding his form really well; he’s as fit as he was the other day, if not better, and Zac was happy with his work this morning.”
So far this term, Beauty Generation has mirrored his 2017 autumn campaign with repeat wins in the G3 Celebration Cup and G2 Sha Tin Trophy. Connections are hoping the Road To Rock 6-year-old can repeat in December’s G1 Longines Hong Kong Mile in three weeks’ time, too.
But a departure from last year’s result in the Jockey Club Mile is being sought this weekend. Beauty Generation was only third in last year's edition of Sunday’s HK$4.25 million contest.
On paper, Hong Kong’s Horse of the Year faces his simplest assignment in some time. His two wins this term were achieved off top weight of 133 pounds under handicap conditions. Sunday’s eight-runner feature is a set-weights and penalties contest - and the latter victory was rated exemplary enough to push him to the pinnacle of the pecking order in the world’s turf mile division with a Longines World’s Best Racehorse Rankings figure of 126, which puts him level with Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Accelerate and ahead of the likes of Enable, Justify, Roy H and Sea Of Class.
Beauty Generation’s domestic mark, meanwhile, puts him 13 points clear of the next best in the field, last year’s Jockey Club Mile hero Seasons Bloom, who must compete off a level weight this time.
A new approach
Moore would usually use the Thursday before the Jockey Club races to give his stars a solid tune-up, paired up and running home in smart time. But Beauty Generation’s impeccable start to the campaign has meant a shift in the trainer’s method of gradually raising his horses to a December peak.
“If Beauty Generation hadn’t won first-up and then had only run a place coming into this race, I’d have put a bit more work into him, but it’s not necessary because he hit his straps running from the first race. We’ll just keep him ticking over now,” Moore said.
“He's a fit horse, so he doesn’t need to do any more. I just think he’s enjoying life.”
Purton has reaped the rewards of Moore’s approach with the Patrick Kwok-owned galloper and is hoping for more of the same in Sunday’s final prep for what the handler refers to as ‘the Grand Final’.
He’s worked out that he doesn't need trials between races, it’s just a case of keeping him a little bit on the fresh side - the horse seems to really appreciate that. John just keeps ticking him over,” Purton said.
As for Sunday's contest, the rider will stick to the usual script on a horse who relishes racing rhythmically in a prominent spot.
“We don’t need to reinvent the wheel because he’s already shown us what he can do and we don’t need to get him any fitter. As long as the horse is happy and John’s happy, I’m sure he’ll run well,” the champion said.
Moore also sent Werther and Eagle Way for solo spins on the grass yesterday morning. Werther was first out and moved well enough to clock 25 seconds for his final 400m under Douglas Whyte. He will line up in the G2 BOCHK Jockey Club Cup over 2000 metres (ten furlongs), a prep for the Hong Kong Cup on December 9.
It’s a tougher assignment than the one facing Beauty Generation - the opposition includes dual G1 winners Pakistan Star and Time Warp, who landed the Hong Kong Cup last year.
The 7-year-old won the race last year but has raced only once so far this term, having rounded out last season with a fine second in Japan’s G1 Takarazuka Kinen in June.
“This race on Sunday will top him off,” Moore said. “The owner was keen to miss the Ladies’ Purse, so this race will put the finishing touches to his training programme leading into December.
“He went on his own because we don’t want to put him under too much stress - if he chases something, he gets very competitive in his work, so I don’t want to tempt anything. I want him going in a happy horse.”
Eagle Way, another Cup contender at the weekend, albeit one with a Longines Hong Kong Vase (2400m) entry, looked sharp under his work rider, clocking 24.2s down the straight. Silvestre De Sousa will be in the saddle come race day.
“The work rider said that all he wanted to do was get on with the job upon entering the straight, which was good,” Moore said. “We have always had little issues with his feet, but this season, so far - and judging by his first two runs - he’s hitting the line very strongly. We couldn’t be happier with his work.”