The locals might have been one down with Mr Stunning’s late enforced absence, but it mattered not as the ever competitive Beat The Clock led home a Hong Kong one-two-three in the HK$16 million, Group 1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize (1200m).
The John Size-trained sprinter, third last year and remarkably never outside the first three in 21 career starts, beat fellow locals Rattan and Little Giant in a Hong Kong trifecta which relegated the world’s highest-rated sprinter, Australian visitor Santa Ana Lane, into fourth place.
It was a first Chairman’s Sprint Prize win for jockey Joao Moreira (who had been placed the two previous years) and a second straight for Size who not only won last year’s edition with Ivictory but saddled the first three home as Mr Stunning, whom he then trained, split the winner and Beat The Clock.
It was Beat The Clock’s eighth win and his second at Group 1 level, having taken the Centenary Sprint Cup in January but this was certainly his finest moment after minor placings this day last year and in the Group 1 Hong Kong Sprint last December.
Trainer Size spoke of the willingness of the winner. “He is a joy to take to the races, that’s for sure, because he’s so consistent and such a willing participant. He’s come strong at five years of age and it should be his best season and he’s done that, he’s delivered with his two Group Ones.”
The visiting Santa Ana Lane (AUS), who went off a 1.8 favourite, ran the quickest last 800 metres and last 400 metres of the race but after settling at the tail had too much to do and finished two and a quarter lengths from the winner but well clear of the rest headed by Pingwu Spark and Japan’s Nac Venus who finished together, fifth and sixth.
Records aplenty fell as Hong Kong’s current racing sensation and the world’s highest rated active racehorse Beauty Generation literally ambled his way to victory in the HK$18 million, Group 1 FWD Champions Mile.
Jockey Zac Purton barely moved a muscle on the six-year-old superstar who led throughout in an eased down length and a half win which trainer John Moore accurately described as ‘facile’.
It was a ninth straight win for this remarkable racehorse and an eighth victory this season bettering the previous best one season tally of seven shared by Entrapment and Ambitious Dragon.
He also claimed Viva Pataca’s prize money earnings record (in Hong Kong) with Sunday's earnings taking his tally to HK$84,770,000 – about HK$1.5 million above the tally garnered by Viva Pataca who was also trained by Moore and whose final win came at this meeting, in the QEII Cup, in 2010.
Beauty Generation last year became just the fourth horse to complete the Group 1 Hong Kong Mile and Champions Mile double in the same season - and those to precede him were widely acclaimed as champion performers of their time - Maurice (2015/16), Able Friend (2014/15) and Good Ba Ba (2007/08).
Trainer Moore acknowledged the horse’s momentous achievements and did not rule out the possibility of heading to Japan for the G1 Yasuda Kinen on 2 June.
“Definitely, it’s an amazing achievement,” he said of today’s win, “for the stable and all the staff to be able to keep him up and sustain his fitness level to be able to win these races in such a facile fashion. And thanks to Hong Kong that we’ve had a champion in our midst and we’ve still got a champion miler and the whole world knows we’ve got one hell of a miler over here.
“I’d like to go to Japan but of course it is the owner’s call. Patrick (Kwok) and his father (Simon) will make the decision in time. As I said it was a facile win today and I don’t think it took much out of him in the sense of it being such a long season and I still think there’s a lot left in the tank. Let’s go back to the drawing board and have a talk over dinner.”
Purton has now ridden 21 Group 1 winners in Hong Kong, one shy of Gerald Mosse’s record.
In the third Group 1 it was Japan's Win Bright who powering home in the HK$24 million, FWD QEII Cup and lowering the 2000-metre track record.
The grey became the first horse to dip below 1m 59.00s, stopping the clock at 1m 58.81s as he earned a first top level win. Yoshihiro Hatakeyama’s five-year-old became the latest Japanese raider to make the QEII Cup honour roll, following Eishin Preston (2002 & 2003), Rulership (2012) and Neorealism (2017).
The first eight horses dipped below two minutes, just 14 months after Time Warp – 11th today after attempting to make all – became the first to break that mark.
“On Wednesday morning Win Bright galloped and clocked a fast time, so it was not unexpected that he could run a fast time today,” jockey Masami Matsuoka said of the 47/1 outsider.
The rider had not won a Group 1 since Meiner Kitz landed the Tenno Sho (Spring) all of 10 years ago. But he looked the part of a top-flight regular on his first ride at Sha Tin, cruising coolly along the rail in mid-pack, switching out in the straight and pushing his mount to victory with the vigour of a man ready to end that decade-long drought.
“This is the very best day!” he said. “He didn’t have good gate speed this time but we found a good spot and the horse travelled nicely and that helped him run very well to the finish.”
Trainer Yoshihiro Hatakeyama – like Matsuoka and the Stay Gold entire’s owner, Win Racing Club – was competing in Hong Kong for the first time. The handler set his sights firmly on this race after Win Bright’s defeat of five Group 1 winners in the Group 2 Nakayama Kinen in February.
“He had won at Group 2 and Group 3 level but had always been beaten in Group 1 races, but his winning form from his two starts this season made me think that he was developing and improving,” he said.
“I was quite sure that he would be competitive at the top level. I couldn't be confident that he would win, of course, but I did think he would be very competitive.”
“I hope he will gain more power and develop and we would love to come back in December for the Hong Kong Cup.”
Win Bright drove past last year’s winner Pakistan Star with 70 metres to race and had momentum enough to hold Hong Kong’s star stayer Exultant by three quarters of a length. The Tony Cruz-trained gelding edged third-place Lys Gracieux by a short-head, the pair having been split by a neck when first and second in December’s G1 Hong Kong Vase.”
Meanwhile in Japan Fierement (JPN) successfully captured this year’s Tenno Sho (Spring) title at Kyoto on Sunday as race favorite in only his sixth career start, the shortest in JRA history, to mark his second JRA-G1 victory after his three-year-old classics, the Kikuka Sho (Japanese St. Leger, G1, 3,000m) after which he was given the rest of the season off to prepare for his four-year-old campaign.
The Deep Impact colt had come off a runner-up effort in the American Jockey Club Cup (G2, 2,200m) in January and stamped his claim as a first class stayer with another G1 victory over long distance at the highest level.
Trainer Takahisa Tezuka claimed his fifth JRA-G1 title—the latest being the Kikuka Sho last year with Fierement. Jockey Christophe Lemaire won his 25th JRA-G1 title—his last being the Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas) with Saturnalia just two weeks ago—and became only the third jockey to have claimed all eight of JRA’s major G1 titles (Satsuki Sho, Tokyo Yushun [Japanese Derby], Kikuka Sho, Oka Sho [Japanese 1000 Guineas], Yushun Himba [Japanese Oaks], Arima Kinen, Tenno Sho [Spring], Tenno Sho [Autumn]) after Takayoshi Yasuda and Yutaka Take.