The release of entries for the international trial events on Saturday week yesterday revealed that trainer Tony Cruz will use the Group Two Longines Jockey Club Cup to test Beauty Only for a switch to the Hong Kong Cup next month.
The Jockey Club Cup, Mile and Sprint entries were released yesterday without a full field in any of the traditional international day preparation races but Beauty Only's switch up in distance was the only real surprise.
A respectable sixth in Luger's Derby in March, Beauty Only had nevertheless been declared a non-stayer by Cruz after winning the Kwangtung Cup over 1,400m first-up in September. At that time, Cruz was adamant the Hong Kong Mile would be Beauty Only's optimum mission on December 13 but the trainer has had a change of heart, at least as far as the 2,000m lead-up race.
"The owner, Simon Kwok [Siu-ming] has Beauty Flame in the Jockey Club Mile as well and he asked if we could split the two horses rather than run them both in the same race," Cruz said. "There's no way that Beauty Flame gets further than the mile so he has to run in that race, while we'll give Beauty Only another chance to see if he runs 2,000m. He's a bit older now, and if he performs well, he might stay with the 2,000m. But if he shows that he doesn't stay, he'll drop back to the Mile on international day."
The change will necessitate a change of jockey as well, as Cruz also has Blazing Speed in the Jockey Club Cup and Neil Callan stays with the horse on which he has already won a Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup and Audemars Piguet QE II Cup, while Gerald Mosse will take the seat on both Beauty Flame and Beauty Only.
In the Jockey Club Mile, John Size has also confirmed that Nash Rawiller will ride Contentment, with Joao Moreira relinquishing the mount to go back onto Horse of the Year Able Friend.
The identity of the visiting horses for the Longines HKIR meeting remains mysterious and fluid until the official announcements two weeks from now, but it seems that Melbourne's spring carnival will present not only a pathway to the December showpiece for some northern hemisphere-trained horses but possibly the largest contingent ever from Australia and New Zealand.
Chris Waller-trained Preferment may come for the Vase - the first Hong Kong runner for the all-conquering Sydney-based yard - and David Hayes-trained stablemates Criterion (Cup) and Rising Romance (Vase) are being suggested as likely runners, as is Kris Lees-trained dual Group One-winning mare Lucia Valentina for the Cup.
New Zealand trainer Murray Baker and connections of Saturday's Group One Emirates Stakes winner Turn Me Loose have also indicated he will come for the Mile.
Top Australian sprinters Terravista and Chautauqua had been thought to be the most likely Australian visitors; however, their defeat at the hands of Delectation in last Saturday's Group One Darley Classic has cast some doubt on those plans.
Trainer Joe Pride has cancelled the trip for Terravista, while Wayne Hawkes told Melbourne radio that Chautauqua is on track to come but by no means certain.
"We just need to see how he pulls up to go forward," he said. "Going eating rice for a couple of weeks won't be easy and he's got to travel, acclimatise, get on a plane, which he's never done, so to be fair, we only want to go if we think we're a dead-set good thing.
"At the moment, we're going ahead but we only need one small thing to pull the plug ... there's a stack of prize money here in Australia as well."
Godolphin's Contributer remains in the picture for Sha Tin but the John O'Shea-trained galloper has had a setback with a hoof abscess.