Beauty Generation faces a pivotal test in Sunday’s (19 January) Group 1 Stewards’ Cup (1600m) at Sha Tin with not only the direction of future assignments but also his status as Hong Kong’s best miler in the balance.
Trainer John Moore has his heart set on Beauty Generation enhancing his legacy as a world class galloper in the Group 1 Dubai Turf (1800m) at the end of March, but he knows that if he is to fulfil that dream the seven-year-old must put in a big run this weekend against the horse threatening to grasp away his crown, the John Size-trained Waikuku.
“Serious,” was how Moore described Waikuku’s threat. “He’s the younger horse coming through the grades that looks like he might be special, and ‘the special one’ is diminished, he’s not the top horse he was and we put that down to the age factor; it’s nothing to do with soundness, he’s fine, he’s just getting older.”
There was a time, only three months ago in fact, when the champ was anything but diminished; when defeat was seen simply as something Beauty Generation habitually handed out to his routed rivals. As Moore knows though, time’s passage respects neither men nor horses and the seven-time Group 1 winner heads into the Stewards’ Cup off three deflating losses, latterly when third to Japan’s Admire Mars in the Group 1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile, one place behind Waikuku.
But after those disappointments, the Beauty Generation camp is displaying renewed hope if not outright confidence. “He’s definitely going to make a race of it, anyway,” Moore said.
A smooth gallop yesterday morning (Thursday, 16 January) – six days after a barrier trial that had his jockey Zac Purton sharing a report verging on the upbeat – suggested a rekindling of at least a flare of the champion’s old spark.
“The feedback is positive,” Moore said. “Purton’s never been that complimentary and this is actually the first time he has been complimentary, so I’m taking that positively. The horse was sweating up a little bit this morning, which is a good sign, so I’m happy with him. If he could just have that easy lead!
“This morning he went down the back on the grass under Romain (Clavreul) and walked back on the dirt track, none of this coming round and trotting back in front of the stands – just to start to get him to think about it all. He pulled up brilliantly.
“He’s jumping out of his skin at the present moment so that’s a good sign,” the trainer continued. “We’ve changed a few things – work patterns and the like – so taking into consideration the barrier trial last week and the feedback after the trial from Zac, we’re pleased.”
Those changes include Beauty Generation trialling without blinkers and he will race without that gear for the first time in Hong Kong with Moore instead opting for the cheekpieces he trialled in, and which he has worn occasionally this season at exercise.
Is the spark really there?
Beauty Generation is a notorious handful, an aggressive bully even, and the bay showed signs of his cocksure character when refusing to acquiesce before last week’s trial, turning away from the tunnel leading to the track, throwing his head in defiance.
“He does it all the time – you want to see him like that – he’s been like that all the way through when he was winning all those races. You want to see those same characteristics,” Purton said.
“He certainly looks good and seems fresh; it’s just a matter of whether or not that transfers through to race day now.”
Purton will be in the plate on Sunday for the Road To Rock gelding’s attempt at back-to-back Stewards’ Cup wins, a feat that if pulled off would see him join the likes of Good Ba Ba (2008 & 2009) and Electronic Unicorn (2002 & 2003).
“It’s hard to go in expecting anything now,” the champion jockey said. “We’re going in hopeful that he can bounce back – he hasn’t been getting beaten far and he hasn’t been showing his best but he also hasn’t been showing any enthusiasm. He has to find that spark and the hunger to want to just get the job done – it’s not going to take much.
“I thought his last trial, maybe mentally he was in a bit of a better place and we go to the races hoping he’s going to bounce back.”
There was much talk last year about whether or not Beauty Generation would or even should go to Dubai’s World Cup meeting to test his credentials away from Sha Tin. Connections finally came down against the idea but Moore believes the Patrick Kwok-owned galloper would benefit from the experience this time.
“I think it all depends on this Stewards’ Cup run, if he runs a big one, first or second in a fighting finish, Dubai is definitely on the cards because it fits the programme nicely,” he said.
Moore believes the New Zealand-bred, the track record holder for 2200m at Sha Tin, might now be ready for a return to a longer distance.
“The 1800 metres in Dubai is perfect,” he said. “If he runs a big race at the weekend, going 1800 metres on the other leg – counter-clockwise – that would be better. We know he goes over further, he was bought as a Derby horse and that would be the right way to go.”
Six weeks ago a crowd of international media – their cameras clicking and thumbs frantically hitting social media apps – buzzed around Beauty Generation after his final stretch-out before a failed bid for a LONGINES Hong Kong Mile hat-trick. This morning, the big horse galloped to a gallery of a couple of photographers perched on plastic stools.
“The hype around him has diminished now so let the horse do the talking on the weekend,” Moore concluded.
Beauty Generation will break from gate one in the seven-runner contest, which is the first leg of the Hong Kong Triple Crown series.