Beauty Only enjoyed an unchallenged position as the Kwok family’s leading light in recent seasons but that changed last month when Beauty Generation carried another variation of the dynasty’s pink, black and white silks to victory in the Group 1 Hong Kong Mile.
The Tony Cruz-trained Beauty Only, Hong Kong’s champion miler last term, relinquished his Hong Kong Mile crown and his Kwok-string supremacy with a below-par seventh that day. The seven-year-old will re-oppose his younger usurper in Sunday’s (28 January) HK$10 million Group 1 Stewards’ Cup (1600m) at Sha Tin Racecourse.
“He’s a forgotten horse a little bit, he’s getting a bit older and he hasn’t been at his best this season but it’s dangerous to write him off,” Cruz said at Sha Tin this morning.
“In the Hong Kong Mile, he pulled up with a bruised foot around the toe area and it was hurting him, so he didn’t run his best race,” he revealed.
Beauty Only has stepped out since then with a solid fourth in the Group 3 Chinese Club Challenge Cup Handicap (1400m) on New Year’s Day, behind fellow Stewards’ Cup rivals Fifty Fifty and third-placed Helene Paragon. The Italian import showed a flash of his old self, storming the stretch in a race fastest 22.25s under a 132lb impost, 19lb more than the winner.
“He ran well last time to finish fourth, so he showed me there that he’s coming into form and I think he has a good chance. If he comes back to his best form he can win the race,” Cruz said.
Zac Purton has partnered Beauty Only in 14 of his last 15 races but will be aboard the Cruz-trained Group 1 Hong Kong Cup (2000m) hero Time Warp this time. That has meant a recall to the saddle for Neil Callan, the man who rode the Holy Roman Emperor gelding 15 times for five victories, the 2015 Hong Kong Classic Mile among them.
The Irishman partnered the bay in a dirt track barrier trial over 1200m last Friday.
“I haven’t ridden him in a race for a long time but he’s been running with credit this season,” Callan said. “He never trials well on the dirt but in himself he felt like he was moving good and it was just nice to get back on him. He can definitely run a big race.
“Physically, he feels 100 percent fine, he still feels like the horse I sat on a couple of seasons ago. If he gets the right run and everything works out just right for him, he’ll definitely be thereabouts.”
Beauty Only sports the colours of Eleanor Kwok and her son Patrick, and the latter is the sole owner of Beauty Generation, his silks being white spots on a black background rather than the more familiar white chevron.
Jockey Derek Leung has partnered Beauty Generation to three wins from four starts this term and was atop the John Moore-trained gelding for a turf gallop yesterday morning.
“He galloped on Thursday and he was relaxed, he’d been freshened up but he felt to me like his fitness is back and he’s ready for it,” the jockey said.
“He was fit and ready to go early in the season and we saw that he was in top form for the Hong Kong Mile. After that he had light work and after his barrier trial we’ve put a bit of pressure on the horse, given him more work, and he’s very well for the race on Sunday.”
Beauty Generation has drawn gate 13 of 13 at the weekend, seven berths wider than Beauty Only. Leung is not fazed by that draw for his front-running partner.
“I’m sure we’ll do the same as last time and go forward,” he said. “Time Warp will probably be in a handy position, too, so I’ll discuss with John Moore but I think he’s shown that he’s an honest horse and every time he’s gone forward he’s relaxed and run well.”
As well as Time Warp, the Kwok-owned pair faces last year’s winner Helene Paragon, former Horse of the Year Werther, Group 2 Jockey Club Mile hero Seasons Bloom, the 2016 Stewards’ Cup victor Giant Treasure, and the exciting rising stars Fifty Fifty and Southern Legend, in a race that is shaping to be one of the season’s highlights.
Sunday’s card also features the Group 1 Centenary Sprint Cup (1200m) in which the Group 1 Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) one-two Mr Stunning and D B Pin will face-off again.