Brilliant Aethero rockets to a record win
Aethero turned a match into a procession when lowering the great Sacred Kingdom’s 12-year 1000-metre track record at Sha Tin this afternoon, Saturday, 12 October.
“He’s a star. He’s a star!” were the first words a beaming Joao Moreira said to trainer John Moore when returning triumphant on Hong Kong’s most exciting prospect.
“He’s going straight to the moon,” the Brazilian added after weighing in.
Aethero (122lb) brushed aside fellow rising star Voyage Warrior (125lb), the only other horse in the past decade to have dipped below 55 seconds, as he clocked a sizzling 54.69s, one click inside Sacred Kingdom’s old mark of 54.70s.
“Voyage Warrior is no slouch, so what Aethero did today, breaking the record – and there’s not a great tail-wind here – shows what I’ve been saying about him: I believe he has the makings to be a superstar,” Moore said.
The trainer is no stranger to handling horses in that bracket: Beauty Generation, Viva Pataca and Able Friend have all reached those heights under the Australian’s care.
Moreira was the outstanding Able Friend’s regular partner and was willing to make a comparison.
“Ability-wise, there’s a little bit of Able Friend about him,” he said of the Australian-bred three-year-old. “What a classy horse.”
Moore, too, acknowledged the obvious similarities between the two big chestnuts, but also one difference.
“He’s not as advanced as Able Friend was at the same age. This fellow is still a little goofy, as against Able Friend at the same age, but he’ll get a mile for sure,” the trainer said.
Aethero, a half-brother to G2-winning sprinter Classique Legend, was unable to match the early pace of Voyage Warrior and Multimillion, with Moreira needing to nudge his mount along to race within striking range of that blitzing pair. But, as the race developed, the leaders felt the pinch and Aethero quickened on by to a dominant win.
“He was in the position where he would have every chance because I knew there was a fight up front and they were not as relaxed as my horse was behind them,” the rider said.
“He wasn’t travelling very keen, I had to niggle him for a couple of furlongs but when I put him under pressure and gave him a tap on the shoulder, just a touch, I could feel him pick up right away and I had to hold him back because that was probably a little bit too early. At the 350 (metres) I had to let him go and he just ran away.
“He’s got everything in him and he’s on the way to the Group levels,” he added.
The G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) is the plan via one more run in the G2 Jockey Club Sprint (1200m) next month. But Moore is conscious that there is some work to do after the gelding’s defeat over 1200m last month, a race in which the son of Sebring over-raced when positioned in among horses.
“He’s still a work in progress,” Moore reminded all within earshot. “He got unbalanced in the 1200 (metres) last time, he wasn’t comfortable in that sort of situation so with my riding boys I’ve got to do a lot of work with him amongst other horses to get him savvy, to be able to be competitive in the Group 2 and if he makes the Hong Kong Sprint.
“I’ve been speaking to Romain (Clavreul), my work rider, and we’re going to put two horses in front of him, his work is going to be in between – we’ll do a lot of different things with him to get him used to being amongst horses. I’ll try to get him as comfy as I can.”
Champion jockey Zac Purton had ridden Aethero in each of his four prior races for three wins but was aboard Voyage Warrior this time.
“Zac’s got the ride unless he goes for something else,” Moore said. “Zac always had the ride but he had the booking with Voyage Warrior five or six weeks out so Zac will go back on but it’s a nice substitute to have Joao waiting in the sidelines.”
Aethero put two and a half lengths and more on his 13 rivals in the Class 2 Wo Tik Handicap, with Big Time Baby (125lb) second and stablemate Thanks Forever (125lb) third.
Five for Moreira
Moreira ended the day with five wins on the board, wrapping the card on the Danny Shum-trained Craig’s Star in the Class 3 Yeung Uk Handicap (1400m).
And it was a case of two Hong Kong greats teaming up for their first win together when Moreira drove home the Douglas Whyte-trained Relentless Me in the Class 4 Yan Chai Trophy Handicap (1400m). It was the Brazilian’s first ride for the legendary South African.
“He won the race,” Whyte said of Moreira. “Had he pulled out and gone around the leader, Golden Four (runner-up) would have got his shot. It’s rides like that that win you races and that’s why he’s one of the best.
“I visualise myself on them and I was just watching it saying ‘don’t pull out, stay behind the one in front and he’ll take you to the 200 and you’ll go by him’ and it’s lovely to watch a guy and have things unfold in a way you’d expect a jockey of Joao’s caliber to do.”
Earlier, Moreira had shown yet again that he’s not only the ‘Magic Man’ but also Hong Kong’s ‘Class 5 King’. The Brazilian’s win strike rate in the lowest grade is 23% over the last five seasons and he improved this campaign’s figure to 14% after claiming the opener, the Chung On Handicap (1600m), aboard the Caspar Fownes-trained Joy Master.
Moreira was also on the mark when the Benno Yung-trained Beauty Day held on dourly from the rail-side closer Vincy in the Class 3 Tsuen Lok Handicap (1600m).
Trainer Ricky Yiu missed out with Voyage Warrior but was on the mark with Allied Agility (132lb) in the afternoon’s only other dash over the minimum trip, the Class 4 Hoi Pa Handicap (1000m).
The four-year-old won on debut last term but has been out of the frame in three starts since. The Vincent Ho-ridden Star Witness gelding showed improvement to score by a length and three quarters over the odds-on favourite Victory Power (128lb).
“He was a lot more relaxed today during the race,” Yiu said. “Now he’s listening to his jockey; even though he’s that quick, he’s slowing down and settling for the jockey and that means he can finish.”
Allied Agility had his first spell at the Jockey Club’s Conghua facility after his last start and Yiu believes that may have been a beneficial move.
“He’s more mature after his first four runs and he’s been to Conghua, so I think that might be a factor in him relaxing too, I’m not sure,” he said.
The handler bagged a race-to-race brace when Karis Teetan guided Encore Boy to victory in race three, the Class 3 Sha Tsui Handicap (1200m).
Savvy for Cruz
Savvy Six (118lb) is a difficult customer but the wayward five-year-old did enough things right today to bag his first Hong Kong win in the Class 2 Tsuen Fu Handicap (1800m). Keith Yeung guided the Pour Moi gelding home, a fortunate pick-up after Matthew Chadwick was laid low with flu.
Tony Cruz’s charge, third in the G1 German Derby two years ago and G3-placed last term, held off Tianchi Monster (118lb) by half a length, although the winner did veer out markedly close home.
“His mind is more settled these days,” Cruz said. “He’s a much stronger horse this season – he’s doing more things correctly and that’s why he’s able to perform better.
“We’ll go over longer distances, wherever there’s a suitable race programmed over a staying distance, we’ll go for it.”
Trainer Jimmy Ting walked away from Happy Valley on Wednesday with two wins from his final two runners on the night and completed a hat-trick when his first runner at Sha Tin today delivered in race four. King’s Race, a 24/1 chance, took section two of the Class 4 Tak Wah Handicap (1400m) by a length under Matthew Poon.
Purton took the Class 4 Tai Ho Handicap (1200m) on Dollar Reward to initiate a Shum stable double.
Hong Kong racing continues at Happy Valley on Wednesday, 16 October.