By David Morgan/Hong Kong Jockey Club
Hong Kong: Brilliant three-year-old sprinter Aethero (John Moore/Zac Purton) will make an eagerly awaited return to the fray in Sunday’s G2 Sprint Cup (9.20am BST, live on Sky) with G1 glory and a legend’s benchmark blinking on the radar.
The Aussie-bred gelding is only two points shy of the 121 rating the great Silent Witness achieved as a three-year-old in 2003 – the highest Hong Kong rating this century for a horse of that age.
If his weekend assignment doesn’t improve his own domestic mark of 119 (his international rating is already 120), a big run in the G1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize over the 1,200-metre course and distance at Sha Tin at the end of the month just might.
“Silent Witness has a statue in front of the grandstand, we all know what a great horse he was, so for Aethero to be rated only 2lb behind his three-year-old rating, that’s already impressive,” said trainer John Moore.
For all his sizzling precocity, Aethero has a long way to go if he’s to come anywhere close to the overall achievements of Hong Kong’s all-time banner horse. But, putting aside comparisons, what he has done already places him on a pedestal of lofty expectation.
Since an impressive debut score last April, the Australian-bred has put together a record of five wins from seven starts, including a victory against the best of his elders in the G2 Jockey Club Sprint in November. That win ensured he went off 1-2 favourite for the Hong Kong Sprint, but though he ran admirably, leading until 30 metres out, he was beaten a neck into third behind champion sprinter Beat The Clock and runner-up Hot King Prawn.
“He threw a temperature after the race and that told me we needed to back off him and give him plenty of time to recover and that’s what we did,” Moore said of the Sebring chestnut.
“The Hong Kong Sprint came earlier in his career than would normally have been ideal; he’s still only a three-year-old but he has so much ability and he showed it in running a close third. Now he’s showing us that he’s in good health and his trial the other day was much better, right up to expectations.”
Aethero has had four months to regain his health and fitness and Moore was pleased with the gelding’s exercise on Thursday under work rider Romain Clavreul.
“He worked on the all-weather and I’m very pleased with what he did,” Moore said. “Romain got off him and said he couldn’t be happier with him. He’s ready for his return and we’re expecting a big run from him on Sunday.”
But the trainer also noted that the Sprint Cup is not the ultimate target and his charge is expected to progress from the run. “This is his preliminary bout to get him tuned up and in the zone for the big one at the end of the month,” he said.
Beat The Clock will not be in Sunday’s field, having been sidelined from the training roster since February, but Aethero will face Hot King Prawn, Mr Stunning, Big Party, D B Pin, Full Of Beauty, Voyage Warrior and his own stablemate Thanks Forever.
Hong Kong has had unsettled, showery weather for the past week and that could continue through the weekend. The ground was described as ‘good’ on Thursday.
The Sprint Cup is part of a G2 doubleheader along with the Chairman’s Trophy (6.45am BST) over 1,600 metres (1m) in which champion Beauty Generation will attempt to reverse recent form with the circuit’s ascendant miler Waikuku.
• Sha Tin runners, riders and form for Sunday’s card at hkjc.com