On the Rails
with Alan Aitken
There will be those who call it a stroke of genius and those who call it an attack of madness. And most will wait until December 14 to decide if it is one or the other.
But the decision by John Moore to switch Happy Zero to the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Mile has certainly turned the bright lights onto the race on international day which was struggling to get some sort of momentum going.
The team of heavies from Australia and the usual solid local force ensured the Sprint of attention, the European invaders for the Vase will hold sway as usual, and the clash of Presvis, Collection et al will ensure the Cup is worthy of its top billing.
The Mile, however, had been something of a concern. New local faces have not appeared among the milers, the established stars aren't getting any younger and even the ranks of the visitors would appear thin based on those foreign trainers who have expressed interest in the media in being here.
The Kyoto Mile Championship last Sunday - one of only two Group One 1,600m events in Japan - may not even produce a single runner at Sha Tin this year, unlike seasons gone by when it not only was the pathway of runners but winners like Eishin Preston and Hat Trick.
So, brass tacks then, the HK$16 million Mile is worth more money than the HK$12 million Sprint and appears less competitive.
Of course, programming the horse based purely on the prize money would hardly be very clever but the latter argument is worth noting, especially when Beadman has been convinced for some time that Happy Zero's style this season is more like a miler than a sprinter, though he has never been over that longer trip.
There is some sort of parallel for the switch with Scintillation five years ago. Like Happy Zero, he won the Sha Tin Sprint Trophy over 1,000m first-up then ran in the Sprint Trial, which was also 1,000m at that time, and finished third behind Silent Witness.
At his next run, he changed course - perhaps to avoid running into Silent Witness again - to the Hong Kong Mile and finished a brave fourth, beaten a length, on his first attempt at 1,600m.
Happy Zero is a five-year-old, Scintillation was a four-year-old but was a more experienced horse after racing at two and three and he was having his 17th start in the Hong Kong Mile.
But there are also similarities in the way both horses went through their grades towards the end of their previous preparations. Scintillation won four straight at 1,400m, taking himself from Class Three to Class One, despite always racing quite fiercely.
So to Happy Zero, who won three out of four at the end of last season over 1,400m, went from Class Three to Class One, and was a jump-and-run type who often raced more freely than one would want to see with a future miler.
But both horses settled down after a break and Happy Zero now looks more a miler than Scintillation ever did. He might only need to handle it that length better to win the Hong Kong Mile and we aren't betting against him doing that.