A pair of veteran Hong Kong campaigners doubled up on December group 1 victories Feb. 25, serving notice for would-be rivals eyeing late-season spoils over the Sha Tin turf.
Time Warp went right to the front in the 2,000-meter (about 1 1/4 miles) Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup (G1) and held off former local Horse of the Year Werther by a half-length in a furious finish. But he had to warp some time to do it as he was clocked in a course-record 1:59.97—the first sub-two-minute finish at the distance in Sha Tin history.
Seasons Bloom and Pakistan Star certainly were not disgraced chasing the top pair in the final 100 meters to finish third and fourth.
Time Warp, a 5-year-old Archipenko gelding, backed up a somewhat easier win, also on the front end, in the Longines Hong Kong Cup (G1) over the same course and distance Dec. 10.
"That was quite some performance, wasn't it?" jockey Zac Purton said. "We've been racing here for a long time now and there's been a lot of good horses to grace this track so it's a credit to the horse."
Trainer Tony Cruz said he plans to keep Time Warp at home for now and let rivals come to him in the April 29 Audemars Piguet QE II Cup (G1). Later, he said, more international ambition might surface.
"Maybe next year we'll go places with him," Cruz said. "I don't want to gamble with the chance that he goes to Dubai and doesn't feel 100% when he comes back to run those races in Hong Kong. I'm going to play it safe."
Werther's trainer, John Moore, said jockey Hugh Bowman reported he did put a nose in front in the stretch drive but could not maintain the momentum. "And then we've seen that the horse has bled, so that's probably the reason why," Moore said.
In the Queen's Silver Jubilee Cup (G1), Beauty Generation prompted the pace, hit the front at the top of the lane, and stubbornly held off a rail bid by Beat The Clock, beating the rival by a head. Fifty Fifty was third on the outside, but neither was able to make up the needed late ground on Beauty Generation.
Beauty Generation, with Purton notching the group 1 double, ran 1,400 meters (about 7 furlongs), in 1:20.86. The 5-year-old Road to Rock gelding won for the fourth time this season—a campaign that also includes a score in the Longines Hong Kong Mile (G1) last fall over the same Sha Tin course.
Beauty Generation's plans for the immediate future are similar to those of Time Warp, said trainer Moore, who lifted his seventh Queen's Jubilee Cup.
Moore said his charge has been invited to the Dubai Turf (G1) March 30 "but I'd have to speak to (owner Patrick Kwok) and his father about this horse, and whether they want to travel or not. That's probably not a great chance, so he will probably have one run before the Champions Mile (G1, April 29). But he would be a good hope over the 1,800 meters in Dubai."
The Champions Mile and the QE II Cup are part of a newly repackaged group 1 triple April 29 at Sha Tin. The third race is the Chairman's Sprint Prize at 1,200 meters (about six furlongs). The day is meant to bookend the Longines Hong Kong International Races at the front of the season, lacking only a marathon to be a perfect mirror image.