After Aerovelocity (NZ) rolled back the years to reclaim the Hong Kong Sprint (G1), fans may have taken that as an omen for Able Friend (Aus), the 2014 Hong Kong Mile (G1) hero, who was similarly trying to recapture the glory at Sha Tin Sunday. But the 2-1 favorite didn’t pack his former punch and checked in sixth to the new Mile kingpin, Beauty Only (Ire).
Still, there was a tie-in with Aerovelocity after all, in the shape of jockey Zac Purton. Having guided his old chum in the Sprint, he made it an international race double when lifting the 5-1 Beauty Only to a new career high in the Mile.
The Mile result also furthered Tony Cruz’s status as the Hong King International Races’ all-time leading trainer, with Beauty Only increasing his record total to eight.
Beauty Only had been knocking on the proverbial door at the Group 1 level early in the year, placing in the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup (G1) and finishing fourth in the Stewards’ Cup (G1) and Champions Mile (G1). He also owned course-and-distance wins in the 2015 Hong Kong Classic Mile, April 3 Chairman’s Trophy, and the November 20 Jockey Club Mile (G2).
That recent prep victory signaled that Beauty Only was coming up in peak form, and a strong early pace courtesy of stablemate Beauty Flame (Ire) set the table. Anchored near the rear in the initial stages, Beauty Only summoned the superior turn of foot in a cavalry charge in the stretch.
“I think we’re just starting to see the best of him,” Purton said. “He’s always been so honest but now that he’s fully matured and acclimatized we’re really seeing what he can do.
“He is much improved this season and he was very strong out there today.
“The firm ground suited, the harder the better for him, and so did the good speed. We know he does his best now if we let him balance up early.”
Cruz likewise envisions a big future for Beauty Only, a five-year-old son of Holy Roman Emperor. Formerly racing as Gentleman Only during his juvenile campaign in Italy, he captured the 2013 Premio Guido Berardelli (G3).
“I think we haven’t seen the best of him yet,” Cruz said. “From the day we bought him, we had high expectations with him and I’m so pleased to see how he has improved this season. He’s a good horse to handle, a real professional and he’s gone on as we thought he would after winning the lead-up race.”
Able Friend raised hopes ever so briefly as he peeled out to the center of course, and hinted he had a rally up his sleeve. But he flattened out in this second start back from a tendon injury, as trainer John Moore had feared.
“He feels like he needed another run – his lack of fitness told,” jockey Joao Moreira said of Able Friend. “He should be right on his next run.”
Moore’s two race-fit runners, Helene Paragon (Fr) and Joyful Trinity (Ire), grabbed second and third, respectively.
Jockey Hugh Bowman was complimentary of Helene Paragon.
“I was held up when Zac made his run (on Beauty Only) but I still felt I had the horse to peg him back because he had done a bit more work than I had and I knew my horse would finish. Look, he was too strong late and, although I was held up for a few strides, I had plenty of time. He has a bright future and he will be a headline horse here in Hong Kong.
“He’s run a hell of a race. The winner got the better of us last time. I’ve had an uninterrupted run this time compared to last time but he’s just come up short.”
Interestingly, Purton commented that Bowman’s riding on Helene Paragon forced his hand.
“Hughie pushed off the fence about the 700 (meters), which made me have to go a bit earlier than I wanted to, but the horse (Beauty Only) has got a big set of lungs and kept running. We set sail after the leaders and he responded really well. I believe he can stretch out to 2000 (meters) so there was no doubting him being strong at the end of the mile.”
Contentment (Aus) rounded out the top four, making for another local sweep as in the Sprint. Japan’s Logotype (Jpn) fared best of the internationals in fifth, one spot ahead of Able Friend.
Beauty Only, who clocked the metric mile in 1:33.48 to improve his resume to 28-10-5-3, will now aim to beat the Japanese milers at Tokyo.
“We’ll generally keep him to local races,” Cruz said, “but I’d look to the Yasuda Kinen (G1) in Japan as the mile and the firm ground there is perfect for him.”