Aethero lived up to the bubbling hype with an easy debut win at Sha Tin today (Sunday, 14 April) that took Zac Purton to 100 wins for the season and went some way to upholding trainer John Moore’s judgement.
Moore’s bloodstock arm purchased the Sebring gelding at the Inglis Australian Easter Yearling Sale 12 months ago, securing the chestnut with a bid of AU$575,000.
“When I bought him, as I said to everybody, he just caught my eye as being like Able Friend,” Moore said.
“When he came out of the box, I said ‘just buy him’. He had the pedigree and when I saw him – he’s smaller but he had the look of Able Friend, so I thought, you know, he just might be. Time will tell, but he’s taken a first step today.”
Sluicing to success against six unraced rivals is a long stretch removed from winning four Group 1 races and achieving world champion miler status, but the manner of Aethero’s win down the 1000m straight prompted Moore to declare “the future is bright.”
No one was arguing. Running in the silks of Andrea Tien and Arthur Cheng, Aethero cruised home in the season’s first Griffin contest in a time of 56.27s – almost a full second inside standard, without being extended.
“He only had one barrier trial but he didn’t need any more to win this. He wasn’t 100 percent today but he’s so talented that he didn’t need to be,” Moore said.
“We did have him at the gates the other day. I had the rider jump him out and he began well – everyone seemed to miss that.”
Purton was buoyant when he cantered back to unsaddle the 1.3 favourite. “Let’s put him in the Class 2 later, John,” he shouted, grinning broadly as he went by.
The rider was pleased to reach the 100 mark, his fourth Hong Kong century, as he heads towards what would be a third premiership.
“It’s a good mark to hit – and on a horse like that as well – it’s nice,” he said.
“He’s obviously a nice horse to look at, he’s not your readymade racehorse, he’s quite dumb and in the mornings he doesn’t really know what he’s doing. As he has more racing and gets more experience he’ll learn to do the right things and continue to progress.”
Aethero’s win came just one day after his older half-brother Classique Legend landed the G2 Arrowfield 3yo Sprint at Randwick.
“This is a very good family,” Moore said. “Of course, he has to prove it on the track – it’s all well and good doing it all on the training track – the way he won today, so facile, he has a big future. The sky’s the limit.”
Before he reaches the stratosphere, Aethero has to navigate his way through Hong Kong’s handicap grades; and, before then, he will remain in restricted company in Griffin races, exclusive to two and three-year-old horses who had not raced prior to import.
“I’ll miss the next Griffin race with Aethero and go for the 1200-metre race; that will allow me to let Gala Night race and get a bit of condition because he was lacking fitness there,” the trainer said.
Gala Night placed fifth for the stable, almost 12 lengths behind the winner. The Danny Shum-trained Winning Method was two lengths second under Karis Teetan.
“I don’t know how good Danny Shum’s horse is or where he’ll go in the classes but as far as my horse is concerned the future is very bright,” Moore said.
Shum rates his Holy Roman Emperor juvenile as a decent prospect.
“He will be good enough to go up to the higher grades but he needs time, he’s still a bit fat and colty,” Shum said. “He ran well but the winner’s too good. I think my horse is pretty good, he beat the third horse six and a quarter lengths.
“I have no option but to run in the Griffin races. But if I have to face against John Moore’s horse… the winner will win again.”
Purton moved to 101 for the campaign when the Frankie Lor-trained Flying Victory posted a good win in the Class 4 Jasper Handicap (1200m). That was the three-year-old’s second career start.
And Moore bagged a brace when Beauty Energy scooted clear through the rain to win the day’s trophy contest, the Class 4 18 Districts Cup Handicap (1400m). Umberto Rispoli claimed his 20th win this term on the British import, known previously as Son Of The Stars.
Champion’s Way (126lb) maintained his unbeaten record as he claimed a fifth career win under Joao Moreira in the finale, the Class 2 Topaz Handicap (1400m).
But on rain-softened ground the task was not a straightforward one for the 1.8 favourite or his jockey. When the talented Good Standing (133lb) kicked clear at the top of the home straight, the John Size-trained rising star had work to do.
“He proved once again that he’s a really nice horse,” Moreira said after Champion’s Way had dug deep and raced past the Moore-trained rival to a length and a quarter success. “Every time that he’s put into a new situation he’s just coped with it. That proves that he’s got a good heart in him.
“You wouldn’t think he was coming to win at the 800 (metres), he was actually testing my fitness but when we approached the 300 (metres) I could feel like I was going to get there – to beat a good horse, too.
“And he was snaking around as well in the last 100 metres, he moved out and I wasn’t sure what he was going to do. It was tough to ride but an easy win in the end!”
Big Party (127lb) started the 1.7 favourite for section two of the Class 3 Ruby Handicap (1200m) but drifted to the stands’ side rail in the home straight and was unable to reproduce the impressive acceleration of his previous start. The Lor-trained galloper ran home fifth behind fellow three-year-old Mr Croissant (115lb).
The Chris So-trained winner fought gamely for Regan Bayliss to thwart the Purton-ridden Racing Fighter (130lb) by a neck.
“He keeps improving,” So said. “He’s a young horse and I don’t want to push him so he might have one more run this season and I think we’ll see the best of him in one year from now. He could be a Class 2 horse.”
Another young gun, the three-year-old Valiant Dream, took the Class 4 Crystal Handicap (1000m) for trainer Francis Lui and jockey Jack Wong, at only his second career start.
But a real old-timer got in on the act in race two when nine-year-old Laugh Out Loud took the Class 5 Amethyst Handicap (1200m) under Matthew Chadwick. Manfred Man’s charge – a Kembla Grange maiden winner in December 2012 – had the first of his 61 Hong Kong starts in June, 2013 and had not won since June 2017.
Man made it two on the day with Ever Laugh in the Class 3 Sapphire Handicap (1600m). Dylan Mo delivered the five-year-old late to score
Apprentice Alfred Chan kicked on down the straight to land the Class 5 Emerald Handicap (1800m) on the Caspar Fownes-trained Best Effort, making up for a neck defeat on the same horse two weeks ago. That took the rider’s win tally to three.
Vincent Ho teamed with Danny Shum and drove Lucky Hero (129lb) down an outside track in the home straight to win section one of the Class 3 Ruby Handicap (1200m), denying the So-trained Team Spirit (126lb).