Aerovelocity heads to Japan for second tilt at Takamatsunomiya Kinen

Trainer Paul O’Sullivan sets target for battle-hardened seven-year-old after owner gives green light for return to Chukyo on March 27

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 February, 2016, 7:50pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 06 February, 2016, 12:55am

Aerovelocity will return to Japan for a shot at a second straight Takamatsunomiya Kinen next month and trainer Paul O’Sullivan will skip the Group One Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup at Sha Tin with his record-setting sprinter, opting against a step-up to 1,400m.

O’Sullivan confirmed that Aerovelocity came through Sunday’s Group One Centenary Sprint Cup unscathed and owner Daniel Yeung Ngai had given the green light for the battle-hardened seven-year-old to return to Chukyo on March 27 for the ¥212 million (HK$13.8 million) event.

He went as well as ever on Sunday and more importantly, pulled up well after the race. He looks like he is back to his old self
Paul O’Sullivan

READ MORE: Comeback king Aerovelocity eyes Japan return after Centenary Sprint Cup success

“He will be going back, and why not?” O’Sullivan said. “He went as well as ever on Sunday and more importantly, pulled up well after the race. He looks like he is back to his old self.”

Aerovelocity, who became the first Hong Kong-trained horse to win a Group One in three different countries last season, suffered a heart irregularity in October’s Group Two Premier Bowl first-up this term.

O’Sullivan’s tough galloper bounced back with an authoritative win on Sunday to reclaim his mantle as best sprinter in town and put overseas races back on the agenda.

Even though Aerovelocity has a Group Three second over 1,400m on his record and there are four weeks between the Queen’s Silver Jubilee on February 28 and the Takamatsunomiya Kinen, O’Sullivan and jockey Zac Purton had agreed the horse would be better served sticking to 1,200m at Group One level.

“At 1,200m, he is a horse that puts them away at the 300m and then just grinds,” O’Sullivan said.

“We are not sure he really gets the 1,400m against that calibre of horses. If we went to the Group One races here, we would be facing a pretty hot field as well – Gold-Fun is a distance specialist, and there could be a couple of talented horses like Luger and Beauty Flame coming back from the mile.”

A trip to Japan will leave five weeks to return and prepare for the Group One Chairman’s Sprint Prize at Sha Tin – a timeframe that O’Sullivan admitted was “not exactly ideal”, but workable.

“You would love there to be an extra week or two in between,” O’Sullivan said. “But Daniel is great, he has already shown that he will put the horse first by skipping the Hong Kong Sprint earlier in the season, and he has said that if we come back and the horse isn’t right, that we can just put him away and wait for next season.”

Tomorrow O’Sullivan’s focus will be at Sha Tin when Celestial Smile will get his first taste of Group Three company in the Centenary Vase.

“It’s time to dip our toe into the water with him at that level and this looks like the right race to do it,” O’Sullivan said. “He is fit and in-form, I don’t think stepping up to 1,800m will be an issue for him and he gets a light weight.”

Celestial Smile, who has won two-from-two this season over a mile, has taken until six to reach his rating of 100 and has never missed a place in 16 career starts.

“I hope he measures up to this level – although looking beyond this I’m not sure how he would fare up any higher, there’s a big leap from Group Three handicap to some of those Group Two set weight races,” the trainer said.