Beauty Generation confirmed his status atop the world's turf milers, and Joao Moreira celebrated his return to Hong Kong with a victory as the local stars served notice Nov. 18 they'll take some beating in the upcoming Longines Hong Kong International group 1 events.
Beauty Generation was a romping winner of the BOCHK Wealth Management Jockey Club Mile (G2), inviting a comparison to Australia's star mare Winx. Also Sunday, Hot King Prawn led all the way in the BOCHK Wealth Management Jockey Club Sprint (G2) for Moreira, and Eagle Way nailed the BOCHK Jockey Club Cup (G2).
Beauty Generation—Hong Kong's reigning Horse of the Year—and Eagle Way, both trained by John Moore, set course records.
Final fields for the international events will take shape after supplemental entries close Nov. 19, but the preps showed foreign invaders, as usual at the Sha Tin festival, will be up against it.
Beauty Generation was the star of stars on the day. Established as the world's top turf miler earlier in the week by the Longines World's Best Racehorse Rankings, the 6-year-old Road to Rock gelding dominated seven rivals in the Mile, albeit in unorthodox fashion.
Jockey Zac Purton, who edged Moreira for last season's Hong Kong jockey championship, initially took Beauty Generation back behind the early speed. But as things calmed down, he called on Beauty Generation to move quickly into contention before they hit the bend. As they turned into the stretch, Beauty Generation was fully in charge but drifted out until he was nearer to the stands than the inside rail. The gelding still won by three lengths over Southern Legend in a final time of 1:32.64. That time shattered a record of nearly 10 years' standing.
Southern Legend's trainer, Caspar Fownes, called the winner's performance "Winx-like." And Moore compared it to his former star, Able Friend, the 2014-15 Hong Kong Horse of the Year.
"He reminded me of Able Friend, making the big run and scooting clear from the turn," Moore said. "He's proved he's a champion. He had to make two runs out there, after it was like the Charge of the Light Brigade early, and people around the world now will stand up and take notice that there is a very good miler here in Hong Kong."
In the Cup, full brothers Time Warp and Glorious Forever set a hot early pace, then slowed things down as they traveled through the backstretch. But they had nothing left in the lane as Eagle Way swooped down the outside to win by a length, followed by Exultant and 2016-17 Horse of the Year Werther. Eagle Way, a 6-year-old More Than Ready gelding from the Lure mare Wedgetail Eagle, finished the 2,000 meters (about 1 1/4 miles) in 1:59.30.
The impressive performance put a question to Moore, who has been pointing Eagle Way to the Dec. 9 Longines Hong Kong Vase (G1) at 2,400 meters (about 1 1/2 miles). Now, the Longines Hong Kong Cup (G1), a richer prize, looms.
"We'll put in a supplementary entry for the Cup before the deadline tomorrow, and I'll talk it over with the owner, Mr. Siu, whether we run," the trainer said. "I'm hearing that the Cup might be an option worth considering."
Moreira took a while to get going on his return, after he failed an initial bid to win a permanent license in Japan. Newly restored to a season-long license in Hong Kong, he was unplaced in his first six rides but rebounded to win the final three events, starting with the victory on Hot King Prawn for trainer John Size.
Moreira shot to the lead aboard Hot King Prawn in the Sprint. Mr Stunning and Beat the Clock chased the favorite home but couldn't make up any ground in the stretch and settled for second and third, a half-length and another 1 1/4 lengths in arrears.
"It's such a pleasure to be back riding a horse like this for John," said Moreira, who a week earlier partnered Lys Gracieux to victory in the Queen Elizabeth II Cup (G1) at Kyoto.
Hot King Prawn, a 4-year-old Australian export by Denman, from the Unbridled's Song mare De Chorus, is 3-for-3 on the season and a hot favorite for the Longines Hong Kong Sprint (G1) at the same 1,200 meters (about six furlongs).
Optimism is tempered slightly by the fact only one horse in the past 10 years has completed the double from this prep to victory on International Day. That was Mr Stunning.