Beauty Generation planted a champion’s stamp on the Group 3 Celebration Cup Handicap at Sha Tin Racecourse this afternoon, Monday, 1 October. John Moore’s star made light of a 133lb burden to thump a talent-packed field and become only the second horse to win the race back-to-back.
The five-year-old joined Gold-Fun, successful in the equivalent 1400m feature in 2013 and 2014.
This afternoon’s performance was the perfect critic-silencing return for Hong Kong’s Horse of the Year.
That accolade was awarded late last season after some debate within Hong Kong racing circles: his supporters pointed to five pattern race wins, including a trio of Group 1 scores in the LONGINES Hong Kong Mile, Champions Mile and Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup (1400m); his detractors noted that those wins were achieved off “soft” leads and lacked X-factor brilliance.
“As a racegoer, you like to see something close quickly, like Able Friend or like Winx. But he’s not flashy, he just gets the job done; the way he did it today, in 1m 20.62s, he’s pretty good!” Moore said.
The time was the fifth fastest at the track and trip in the last decade and was just 0.31 seconds outside the track record.
After racing on the front end, Beauty Generation ran the final straight in a strong 22.28s, passing the post two and a quarter lengths ahead of last season’s BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) hero Ping Hai Star (123lb).
“He got the race run to suit but he’s comfortable travelling in that position and a lot of horses aren’t,” jockey Zac Purton said of the 4.3 second favourite.
“There have been times when there has been a solid tempo and he’s still been there – most horses can’t do that, that’s what makes him what he is.
“He was able to roll forward under his own steam without me having to put too much pressure on him. When he’s travelling like that he gets a lot of confidence and then through the mid stages he came back and relaxed beautifully.
“The horse knew what he wanted to do,” he added. “He got to the 600 (metres) and grabbed the bit and wanted to go, so I didn’t disappoint him; I let him go and he just did the rest.”
Beauty’s better with age
Moore and Purton both expressed in the week leading up to today’s contest that the Patrick Kwok-owned gelding might need the outing. After witnessing his charge’s emphatic display, Moore was bullish about the future.
“He’s getting better,” he said.
“And if that’s the case we’re going into the Hong Kong Mile in December with a big chance again. He’ll go to the Oriental Watch Sha Tin Trophy (1600m) at the end of the month, then into the mile trial (Jockey Club Mile) before the December race.
“Looking at him walk around the paddock before the race, I got a whole different opinion of his fitness. He’s pretty tight; he wasn’t far off. I’d said to Zac to just give me an extra week to trim him up a bit and we’ve managed to do it. I won’t have to do too much with him for the next run.”
Purton echoed Moore. “I thought he’d been blowing a bit in his work and in his trials,” he said.
“I didn’t expect him to put up a performance like that. But John said that he’s tinkered with him in the last 10 days and whatever he’s done has switched him on because he was ready to play.
I think he’s probably got better since last season, or I hope he has!” the champion jockey added.
Derby winner impresses in defeat
Ping Hai Star (123lb) drew admiring words from race watchers after a strong-closing second under Sam Clipperton. Last year’s BMW Hong Kong Derby victor clocked the race’s fastest closing 400m split – 21.70s.
John Size’s charge was having his first start since last April when fourth in the Group 1 QEII Cup (2000m).
“It was a great return, he ran a cracker, he did everything perfectly – he left the gate well and he relaxed for me,” Clipperton said.
“He was trucking coming into the straight and I just had to work out where I was going to go but I had a nice uninterrupted run.
“It was a real nice pipe-opener for him; he was storming home again and I was struggling to pull him up.”
The Francis Lui-trained Born In China (120lb) ran on to claim third under Keith Yeung, three and half lengths behind Beauty Generation.
“I was really happy,” Yeung said. “He travelled beautifully and we were lucky we got a run on the inside – he was only beaten by two very good horses.”
Nothingilikemore (3.5 favourite) won last season’s Hong Kong Classic Mile and jockey Karis Teetan was satisfied after Size’s five-year-old finished fifth.
“It was a very good run,” Teetan said.
“I think this will bring him on. From gate 10 I just had to use him a little bit to get him over and I think he’ll be a better horse with a couple more runs behind more. He still gave me a good feel, I just think he needed it and he’ll improve from it.”
Last season’s Group 1 Stewards’ Cup (1600m) winner Seasons Bloom finished seventh but jockey Chad Schofield was not disheartened.
“I thought he was pretty good,” he said. “He got into a nice position and the winner was too good, but I was happy with my bloke.”
Hot King Prawn (117lb) won the afternoon’s other feature, the Group 3 National Day Cup Handicap (1000m). The Size-trained four-year-old is one of Hong Kong’s most exciting prospects and landed the spoils from stablemate Ivictory (133lb), last season’s champion sprinter.