By David Morgan/Hong Kong Jockey Club
Hong Kong: Beauty Generation is facing a strong challenge for Hong Kong’s Horse of the Year award this season and anything but a record third straight victory in Sunday’s HK$20 million (£2m) FWD Champions Mile (live on Sky) could see the crown go elsewhere.
While an unprecedented Horse of the Year hat-trick remains a real possibility, Beauty Generation is facing an especially strong challenge for Hong Kong’s top honour from brilliant HK Derby winner Golden Sixty, unbeaten in seven starts during 2019-20. The four-year-old, who bypasses Sha Tin’s prestigious Champions Day meeting, will be in pole position for Horse of the Year should Beauty Generation fail.
“If Beauty Generation doesn’t win the Champions Mile, I’d think it might swing Golden Sixty’s way,” said the former’s trainer John Moore.
However, the world champion miler and his connections are not ready to relinquish their title just yet. “I think he’s in with a serious chance of winning the Champions Mile and getting Horse of the Year for a third time,” added Moore.
“He’s the old boy on the block so when it’s a tight call he just might get the vote because, allied to his achievements, he’s a public favourite and there’s that admiration for him.”
The Champions Mile is one of three G1 prizes on the Sha Tin card, which will also feature the Chairman’s Sprint Prize and the FWD Queen Elizabeth II Cup, the official highlight where Exultant is likely to start hot favourite. None of the three races will contain any international competitors due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Horse of the Year is a big deal in Hong Kong – as coveted as an Eclipse Award in North America. No horse has won it three times in a row – River Verdon’s three titles spanned four seasons in the 1990s, as did Silver Lining’s in the 1970s – but Moore has an incredible record with nine outright titles, including with Viva Pataca, Able Friend and Designs On Rome.
“It holds a lot of kudos,” Moore said. “The Kwok family, with what they’ve put into racing, I think they’d be thrilled if he won a third Horse of the Year and he’ll deserve it if he wins on Sunday.”
At his peak rated 127, the equal-highest in Hong Kong history, Beauty Generation suffered four straight defeats at the same time the brilliant four-year-old Golden Sixty was emerging and horses like Beat The Clock, Waikuku and Exultant were staking their claims.
“Any thought of Horse of the Year was definitely dropping off the radar with the younger brigade coming to the fore,” Moore admitted. “Waikuku looked to be the one around mid-season and then Golden Sixty came out and won the Classic Series so it looked beyond us.”
However, Beauty Generation has since bounced back finishing second to Waikuku in the Stewards Cup followed by two wins including a third triumph in the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup.
“Waikuku ran no race last time,” Moore pointed out, “and all of a sudden Beauty Generation has had a new lease of life. That’s been due to a change in gear and workload, and he’s come out and won a G1 and a G2 so he comes back into the picture for Horse of the Year.
“We know Golden Sixty hasn’t met him and I was expecting to see them take on each other in the Champions Mile but they chose to consider the QEII Cup and now they’re taking a step back to wait for next season, which I must confess took a bit of sweat away from my brow.
“I do think Golden Sixty is seriously talented,” he added. “He would have run a big race against Beauty Generation had he run in the mile but that’s not to be.
“If we can win the Champions Mile on Sunday, he’d have a serious chance of being Horse of the Year again.”