Zac Purton says a weaker than usual Group One Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup field was part of the reason standout miler Beauty Only will get another chance to prove himself up in trip on Sunday at Sha Tin.
Beauty Only has established himself as one of the premier milers in town and is a Horse of the Year candidate after wins in the Group Two Jockey Club Mile and Group One Longines Hong Kong Mile this season.
The Tony Cruz-trained six-year-old has faltered when stretched further though, placing just once in four tries beyond 1,600m, and many felt the Irish-bred import would have been better placed at 1,400m in Sunday’s Group One Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup.
“When I looked at what horses might be entered for both races, I just felt there was a good opportunity in the 2,000m race to try him at that distance again,” Purton said, with Beauty Only to face just six rivals in the HK$10 million race.
“It looked to be a group of horses that are either completely out of form or just not up to it. Then you look at the 1,400m race and it looks far stronger.”
Able Friend will probably start favourite in the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup, with the former Horse of the Year seemingly approaching his best, and the HK$10 million sprint is also bolstered by the presence of last start Group One winner Helene Paragon and Hong Kong Mile placegetter Joyful Trinity.
“If Beauty Only went that way he would probably end up being last in the run, and given that he already needs a fast speed over a mile to get into it, he might not be as suited there,” Purton said.
“But bottom line was that we felt it was a much stronger race. Not only have you got Able Friend and Helene Paragon, but last year’s winner Contentment is there as well.”
Purton is drawing some confidence from the one time Beauty Only was able to close off convincingly at 2,000m, in the 2015 Group Two Jockey Club Cup.
On that occasion, Beauty Only ran the fastest final 400m sectional of the race and finished third, three quarters of a length behind Military Attack and Blazing Speed.
“I admit that there is that little bit of a question mark at the distance, but he did run a very good race that time with Gerald Mosse aboard, where he got back and rattled home, and I think he is a more mature horse now.”
Purton teams with John Size to ride Sun Jewellery in the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup and even though last year’s Classic Mile and Classic Cup winner has struggled lately, a strong recent barrier trial suggests the five-year-old could stage a form turnaround on Sunday.
“He really surprised me in his trial, it was a good sign,” Purton said.
Purton will also be making a trip to Australia to ride for Godolphin trainer John O’Shea at the Randwick Guineas meeting on Saturday, March 4.