There was a smile on John Moore’s face as he discovered the fate of his latest sensation Aethero at the barrier draw ceremony for Sunday’s (8 December) Group 1 Hong Kong Sprint (1200m).
Gate 10 was considered perfect for the master trainer, whose three-year-old has cut a swathe through the division including with his triumph in the Group 2 Jockey Club Sprint (1200m) last month.
“I wanted eight to 10, so it’s not a bad one,” Moore said. “He can be a fraction slow to begin with before he gets into that high tempo. It gives a chance to weigh up the options.
“We hope we’ve got the real deal, and with that three-year-old weight allowance, he should be very close.”
John Size has a particularly strong hand in the event with a five-star team headed by the runner-up in the last two editions, D B Pin, breaking from 13 and another rising star in Hot King Prawn, last year’s beaten favourite, across the track in barrier one.
“I think they’re drawn according to their chances, really,” Size said. “Hot King Prawn’s in one and they work their way out from there – Beat The Clock (barrier three), Full Of Beauty (five), Ivictory (11), D B Pin. I think the gates are pretty important for this event, it’s only a short run to the first turn and the three horses drawn inside will probably get the easiest run.
“D B Pin has been going very, very well but it’s a disappointing gate for him. Ryan Moore will have to be at his best to get something out of him.”
Frankie Lor, when he learned that hat-trick seeking Mr Stunning would break from barrier two, said: “No problem with the draws for mine. Mr Stunning drew in, which was good.”
Beauty Generation, who is seeking a remarkable third consecutive victory in the Group 1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile (1600m), is set to break from barrier five.
John Moore said: “I’m very happy. I know where most of the other horses will lay up and it should give the opportunity for Ka Ying Star to go to the front unless there’s some pace we don’t know about.”
Of the form of the local hero, Moore added: “He’s been carrying a lot of weight in his races but we’ve also tweaked a few things and he seems like his old self all of a sudden.”
Likely tactics were confirmed by Ka Ying Star’s trainer Tony Cruz, with the high-class four-year-old booked for barrier one.
“I’m very happy with gate one, it’s the perfect alley for him,” Cruz said. “I was hoping for it and he’ll go to the front.”
“In their previous race Beauty Generation was on his inside and Ka Ying Star was on his outside. But Beauty Generation carried him out and off the track.
“This time I don’t think we have to fight it out like that. I believe it will be a smoother race and everybody has a fair chance. Definitely he is improving and he’s sure to be in the finish.”
Size’s progressive Waikuku beat both Beauty Generation and Ka Ying Star in the Jockey Club Mile but was drawn on the outside in 10.
“It is a stronger race and there is tougher competition here, particularly from the Japanese entries,” he said. “He’d have to improve and then some to win the race, but it’s not impossible. I’ll have to look at the draw first, I’ve just seen the outside gate and I think we’ll make some plans in the coming days.”
Celebrated half-brothers Time Warp and Glorious Forever have won the past two editions of the Group 1 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup (2000m) and were drawn in adjacent gates.
Cruz said of the former, who breaks from barrier six and landed this event in 2017: “He’s next to his brother and if we have to fight it out, we fight it out. No matter what, he’s going to lead.”
Lor has the high-class Furore in the 2000m classic and he was open about the news that he would be in barrier one.
“It probably doesn’t matter too much, the draw in the Cup with a small field and it’s probably the same for the Mile.”
The decorated Cruz was unconcerned about barrier 14 for Exultant, who was last year’s best local middle-distance performer and stayer and goes for glory in the Group 1 LONGINES Hong Kong Vase (2400m).
“I’m not worried about it, I think it’s better for him because I don’t want him to be stuck in traffic going fast and slow, steadying up here and there,” he said. “I prefer him to be out there with clear running.”
The draw was not kind to Aidan O’Brien’s two runners, with Anthony Van Dyck entering gate 12 and stable companion Mount Everest wider still in 13.
Prince Of Arran, fresh from another visit to Australia, had fortune on his side this time around.
After receiving barrier eight, Natasha Eaton, representing trainer Charlie Fellowes, said: “That was quite emotional. There was a lot of pressure after he was drawn widest last year.
“I’m delighted and thrilled, it’s just what we needed. We can play with that draw and I’ve been told that eight is a lucky number here.”