Connections are taking heart from the fact Aerovelocity still has more than a month to regain his missing spark before the Group One Chairman’s Prize after a flat trial at all-weather track trial at Sha Tin on Tuesday.
Aerovelocity won a second Hong Kong Sprint last December but hasn’t raced since an eighth in the Group Two Centenary Sprint Cup and the Chairman’s Sprint Prize on May 7 could be his swansong.
The eight-year-old’s trainer Paul O’Sullivan said Aerovelocity’s trial was “OK” and added that the tough gelding was withdrawn from a trial last week after uncharacteristically leaving feed in the lead-up.
“I was going to trial him Friday, but he wasn’t himself, he went off his feed for a few days and that isn’t normal for him, so we just decided to give him a few days off,” O’Sullivan said. “We have a long time between now and the race, he will trial one more time before then.”
Aerovelocity’s all-the-way effort in the 1,200m heat, holding off Eastern Express and rising star Nothingilikemore, would be considered good by most horse’s standards, but the five-time Group One winner usually trials so well on the surface that Zac Purton was also underwhelmed by the workout.
“Nothing is as easy for him as it used to be,” Purton said, the jockey who has ridden Aerovelocity is all but the horse’s first four starts.
“He still begins, but he doesn’t show the natural speed he used to show and when I asked him for a little bit more in the straight he seemed to be struggling. He seemed a little off his game actually. He is showing signs that at this point he isn’t at his best, but like Paul said, there’s still a month before that race so there is still time for him to turn it around.”
With Joao Moreira suspended for Wednesday night’s Happy Valley meeting, Purton has attracted a strong book of rides, including likely favourite Winner’s Way in the final race of the night, the Class Two Lion City Handicap (1,650m).
Winner’s Way has form around a number of classy horses that have since risen higher in the ratings and was fourth, beaten less than four lengths, in the Hong Kong Classic Mile.
Most recently the son of Starcraft was an unlucky second to What Else But You and now comes to the Valley for the first time.
“He is a very nice horse and has been racing well at Sha Tin in some strong company,” Purton said. “He has drawn awkwardly so we will need some luck, but it is a nice race for him and he will be very competitive.”