BEAUTY UP AGAINST A NEW BEAST AS CONTE STEPS INTO G1 RING
Of Beauty Generation, Champion jockey Zac Purton says he's the best he has ever ridden and legendary handler John Moore rates him the best he has ever trained.
The LONGINES World's Best Racehorse rankings look set to crown him as the world's best miler of 2018 next week but a new year brings fresh challenges as Hong Kong’s dominant racehorse Beauty Generation tackles the Stewards' Cup.
Sunday’s Sha Tin showpiece - live on Sky Sports Racing at 8.05GMT - pits Beauty Generation against several old rivals who can't beat him if he's on song and one new one who has loads to find on ratings but is firmly on the up.
Beauty Generation runs away with the Hong Kong Mile
And the new one in this case is Conte, arguably the most striking looker in Hong Kong racing and in against heavyweights for the first time after working his way through handicaps in highly impressive fashion.
The level that Beauty Generation has reached in recent months is as high as any Hong Kong horse has ever achieved and his aggressive style nowadays – as evidenced by his second Hong Kong Mile win last month – tends to leave little doubt about who is boss.
The market didn’t think he was the real deal after his first HK mile win and he followed up with an ordinary seventh in this race when sent off at over 7-1. There’s no question that this year’s Beauty is a very different beast, but Conte stepped up to G3 company in ultra-professional style from a rating of 106 here on New Year’s Day.
He’s clearly thriving and, for all that he faces a daunting task on the figures, his presence adds a huge amount to Hong Kong’s first major mile test of 2019.
STUNNING CUTTING IT FINE AS SPRINT RIVALS CLASH AGAIN
If you ever needed a reminder of the fine margins at play in Hong Kong racing, then take a look at Wednesday’s Happy Valley card. An eight-race card produced six winners who scored by a neck or less and the combined winning distances for the entire night came to less than half a second when added up on the stopwatch.
Those fine margins will be firmly in play again for Sunday’s G1 Centenary Sprint Cup as regular rivals Mr Stunning, D B Pin and Beat The Clock renew a running battle featuring several conflicting strands.
D B Pin came out just best of the trio in this race last year; Beat The Clock pipped Mr Stunning when receiving 5lb in a G2 here last April; and Mr Stunning has the most recent bragging rights after beating his old foes in last month’s Hong Kong Sprint.
Mr Stunning lands the Hong Kong Sprint last month
Opinion will be divided as to which of the three will prevail this time around, especially given the lack of a natural front runner. Joao Moreira has chosen Beat The Clock ahead of D B Pin but a second look at the Hong Kong Sprint shows that neither of the pair were making an inch on Mr Stunning close home.
Mr Stunning has just over a tenth of a second in hand of his big rivals on that form. Not much of a cushion, admittedly, but perhaps enough to get him home in yet another dramatic finish.
BIG FOUR PUTTING ON A SHOW
Joao Moreira returned from Japan to resume his Hong Kong career on December 9th and has clicked straight into gear in his new role as stable jockey to John Size. Champion jockey Zac Purton has maintained a healthy strike rate despite the return of his arch rival, while Karis Teetan and Silvestre de Sousa are pushing the superstars hard with a drive and ability to ride light that is so useful in Hong Kong’s handicap system.
But the overall stats provide a stark illustration of how the big four are dominating the Hong Kong landscape at present. Purton (19 wins), Moreira (21), Teetan (12) and de Sousa (14) have won 66 of the 111 races run in Hong Kong during the six weeks since the Magic Man reappeared.
Put it another way, the other 18 active riders have managed just 45 wins between them as the elite claim sixty per cent of the pie. And the signs suggest that the gap between the A-Listers and the rest is unlikely to narrow over the next few weeks.