Aethero’s ready to fly in the Hong Kong Sprint

Aethero has his final fast work at Sha Tin.

Aethero worked solo down the turf track’s back straight at Sha Tin this morning (Thursday, 5 December) in a manner which left John Moore satisfied that Hong Kong’s rising sprint star could well make history this weekend.

“He went without a work mate because he’s a very fit horse, ready to go into Sunday’s big one,” the trainer said.

“His work has gone to plan and everything has shown he has the talent. Now he’s got to prove that he’s a world class sprinter.”

The Sebring gelding will on Sunday (8 December) attempt to become the first Southern Hemisphere-bred three-year-old to win the Group 1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint – only two others have tried.

“He’s very exciting, he has an engine,” Moore said as the tall chestnut circled post-workout on Sha Tin’s floodlit grass to the soundtrack of clicking camera shutters.

“He looks like he could go on to be a champion. He’s got everything about him – appearance, stride, the athleticism, it’s very exciting,” he added.

Moore has been often quoted making comparison with his past champion, the similarly coloured and conformed Able Friend. Aethero is ahead of even that great gelding’s curve in terms of his precocity, and while it has been a rapid ascent from his April debut, through six races, to arrive at one of the world’s biggest sprints, Moore believes his charge can handle it.

“He was beaten first-up this season when things went wrong at the start but that was only greenness, it was him being a work in progress and you expect those things to happen when they’re not yet the finished product. You’re going to see inexperience come out in races when things don’t go right at the start,” he said.

“But last race, when everything went right and he got there to the front and just blitzed them. If not for headwind he’d have probably broken the track record.”

That impressive victory in the Group 2 Jockey Club Sprint (1200m) saw Aethero defeat Hong Kong’s best, with Hot King Prawn second and champion sprinter Beat The Clock third. But the youngster carried 10lb less than the former and 15lb less than the latter. In Sunday’s set-weights contest, he will carry 8lb less, if jockey Zac Purton puts up the expected 1lb over-weight.

“You can’t get away from the fact that he’s up against Hong Kong’s very, very best, and horses that are coming into form. They’re going to be very hard to beat,” the trainer said.

“At levels, he’d have his work cut out against those seasoned gallopers. But they’ve still got to give him weight – if you go to the handicap, he’d be the pick in this race.

“Hot King Prawn and the likes will lay up much closer this time and he will have some pressure put on him but that’s what you expect and accept in these big races.”

King Of Danes (3rd in 2000) and Moore’s own Anabatik (7th in 2002) are the two previous early-season three-year-olds to attempt the feat.

“We’ve done everything that we’ve had to do and I’m really looking forward to it, he’s going in as likely favourite – but he is only a three-year-old,” Moore added.

At the late-morning barrier draw’s conclusion, some five hours later, he said: “I’m happy with barrier 10, it’s not a bad gate at all – I was looking for eight. There’s a lot of pace influence inside him but he’ll gather pace quickly and that’ll give him options to where he wants to be.”

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