Aethero lived up to his billing as Hong Kong’s next big thing with a scintillating front-running victory in the Group 2 Jockey Club Sprint (1200m) at Sha Tin yesterday, Sunday, 17 November.
“Mama Mia!” cried winning rider Karis Teetan as he returned jubilant from a two-length success aboard the precocious chestnut.
“It was unbelievable. The day I trialled him, he gave me the feel of a real champion. I rode Able Friend and this horse reminds me so much of him.”
Trainer John Moore had predicted a track record and he wasn’t far wrong: his rising star stopped the clock at 1m 07.58s, just eight hundredths of a second outside the great Sacred Kingdom’s mark set on this day 12 years ago.
“The sky is the limit. When Karis got off he said ‘he kicked like Able Friend!’” Moore said, referencing his past champion to whom his current big chestnut bears a striking physical resemblance.
Every top sprinter in town went to post for the afternoon’s speed feature, including last season’s champion Beat The Clock, two-time LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint hero Mr Stunning, and last year’s young gun Jockey Club Sprint victor Hot King Prawn.
As a Southern Hemisphere three-year-old against seasoned campaigners, Aethero carried a feather 113lb, a full 15lb less than the Group 1 winners in the field and 10lb less than the rest.
“It was impressive and just outside the track record but he was carrying a postage stamp. Hot King Prawn carried 10 pounds more than us and still closed off with no previous run this season,” Moore acknowledged.
“But, saying that, his run was great. He’s still only a three-year-old and he did everything right: he jumped away from the blocks and got across to the lead from gate nine there and he did it under his own steam.
“We’ll go to the Hong Kong Sprint now and it’s an international Group 1 so his work will be cut out but you can’t ask anything more and he’ll still have a nice weight concession as a Southern Hemisphere three-year-old.”
Aethero will shoulder 117lb in the 8 December Group 1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint. His rivals will carry 126lb.
“Hot King Prawn did close and he was carrying 123 pounds, which is a difference of 10 pounds and it’ll be nine pounds next time so Hot King Prawn has to step up and my horse only has to repeat what he’s done today. He’s going to be very close next time.
“If he draws the same sort of gate in the International race, and can go up and dictate, he’s a live chance for Hong Kong and the stable.”
The John Size-trained Hot King Prawn raced for the first time since last December, having had surgery for colic early this year, and closed promisingly under Grant van Niekerk.
“Great run going into the big race; he’ll be a great ride,” the jockey said.
Beat The Clock, another Size galloper having his first start this season, kept on nicely for third.
“It was a great run and he has maintained his consistency,” said jockey Joao Moreira.
Before the real action, there was drama at the start. Pingwu Spark was withdrawn after refusing to enter the stalls and then came Pakistan Star’s latest misdemeanour.
The enigmatic two-time Group 1 winner broke from the stalls but quickly pulled himself to a stop despite the efforts of Blake Shinn.
“It’s not a new trick!” trainer Paul O’Sullivan quipped in exasperation. “Blake said from the time he jumped he was never going to complete the course. I can’t see any reason why: he’s not in any pain, I think physically, he’s perfect so it’s in his head.
“I don’t know where we go from here; Beas River might do the trick. I’ll talk to Kerm (Din), the owner, and see what he wants to do.”