Aerovelocity has gone from the world’s best sprinter to forgotten horse in the space of 12 months, but favourable conditions in the Group Two Jockey Club Sprint give Paul O’Sullivan’s gutsy competitor a chance to bounce back to prominence.
It was an up-and-down campaign for Aerovelocity last season, with two serious setbacks – namely a heart irregularity early in the term and then a colic attack in Japan – occurring either side of a dominant Group One victory over his domestic rivals in January’s Centenary Sprint Cup.
That win left no doubt who was boss when everybody from that crop was available, and even if two new contenders have appeared on the scene since then in the form of Lucky Bubbles (Brett Prebble) and Amazing Kids (Joao Moreira), Aerovelocity (Zac Purton) gets some key factors his way in the international day lead-up.
The curious conditions of the Group Two mean that last year’s Hong Kong Sprint winner Peniaphobia (Silvestre de Sousa) is the only horse carrying top weight of 128 pounds in the HK$4 million race, as he is the only runner to have won an international Group One in the last 12 months.
Aerovelocity beat basically the same bunch of horses in January that Peniaphobia did, but avoids the five pound “penalty”, as his win at the start of this year was only classified as a Hong Kong Group One.
Of course, Aerovelocity meets Lucky Bubbles on the same weight terms as last start in the Group Two Premier Bowl, where the latter notched an impressive win, but this time the speed map could tip things towards the eight-year-old.
Heavy pressure on the leading group saw Peniaphobia, who had led, fade to finish five lengths away in seventh, but Aerovelocity, who had sat third and close to the pace, and hit the front with 200m to go, stuck on for third.
This time with top weight and a shot at back-to-back Hong Kong Sprints looming, Peniaphobia is less likely to be hunted forward, and there doesn’t seem another rival likely, or even capable, of challenging the tough Aerovelocity for the lead.
That could leave the backmarkers with work to do – it would seem crazy that Lucky Bubbles or Amazing Kids be forced out of their comfort zone three weeks out from their major target, and also firmly in the category of a back marker with bigger fish to fry is returning superstar Able Friend (Tommy Berry).
Who could forget Able Friend’s astonishing win in last year’s Premier Bowl? But what really enabled the finishing blitz that day was a ridiculous pace up front, and as good as Able Friend is, he won’t get the same favourable conditions here. Besides, Able Friend hasn’t raced for nearly 12 months – so the jury is out whether or not we will see the same horse.
The other “new” horse on the scene, Strathmore (Neil Callan), returns first-up for more than six months, the strapping type’s last run a closing third behind Chautauqua and Lucky Bubbles in a high quality Chairman’s Sprint Prize.
Amazing Kids missed the start last time out, something he is prone to do, and may have even won otherwise, but a better jump and closer race position could see the five-year-old make a bold challenge.
Lucky Bubbles is set to start favourite and could just be the next big thing, but is arguably yet to produce a run equal to the career-best of Aerovelocity.
O’Sullivan’s horse has the benefit of a cobweb clearing run under his belt, and an encouraging trial since.
Aerovelocity can win and set the scene for an explosive showdown on December 11.