Beauty Generation is already the best horse Zac Purton has ever ridden, but Sunday is the day he can confirm his status as one of the finest on the planet.
John Moore’s six-year-old is undoubtedly the banner horse of this year's Longines Hong Kong International Races – he is clearly the highest-rated runner – and the pressure is on to deliver.
Last year, Beauty Generation was the feel-good story of the event, an honest grinder who went around at each-way odds to give popular local Derek Leung Ka-chun the biggest win of his career in the Hong Kong Mile. He wasn’t even the stable’s first pick – Helene Paragon started a shorter price – while Purton chose to ride ownermate Beauty Only.
But there won’t be any value this time around – the reigning Hong Kong Horse of the Year has gone to another level this season, winning three straight and crushing his rivals in track-record time last start.
He is rated the equal sixth-best horse in the world and the Jockey Club, as well as the territory’s parochial racing fans, want to see him perform to those lofty standards on the biggest stage.
So as well Purton, Beauty Generation is carrying the hopes of Hong Kong on his back.
To win, all he has to do is reproduce his effort from three weeks ago in the Group Two Jockey Club Mile, or something close to it. It was a run that elevated the gelding to another level in Purton’s mind.
“He would have to be the best horse I have sat on,” he said. “The performance he produced last time and the figure he produced – 126 – I don’t think I’ve ridden a horse who had produced a figure like that before.
“He’s just tough. He can carve out a quick sectional and kick off it. When the other horses carve out a quick sectional they fall in a hole. Only the elite ones can do that and obviously he’s in that bracket.
Hong Kong jockey Derek Leung scores a memorable @LONGINES Hong Kong Mile win aboard Beauty Generation, a first G1 for both horse and rider. It's the third Mile win for trainer John Moore, after Able One (2011) and Able Friend (2014) #HKIR pic.twitter.com/6Et8jBZUGr— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) December 10, 2017
“When you get into Group One races it is a different intensity and it’s the horses who can handle the pressure that separate themselves from the rest.”
The focus surrounding Beauty Generation in the build up to the HK$25 million Group One has been intense so having Hong Kong’s top jockey and the best big-race trainer at Sha Tin has to help – even if some others are feeling the pinch.
“Making sure he’s up to the mark ahead of his big grand final is quite a task and a lot of pressure – I’m coping with it but I know some people in the stable aren’t,” Moore said.
“Every jurisdiction has their champions and this bloke is the champion of Hong Kong. The step up in his ability has just been amazing, there’s no rhyme or reason to it all, it’s just that he’s settled into the environment, married up well with a groom and just finding everything to his liking.”
Earlier in the week, there were whispers not all was well with Beauty Generation but Moore put those rumours to bed, so there should be no excuses.
“We went through him with a fine-tooth comb, we wanted to make sure there was no doubt with regard to his soundness,” he said.
“We’ve done everything possible and as far as we’re concerned he’s a sound horse. We’ve got a champion on our hands, he’s done everything right and the grand final is on Sunday.”
So the stage is set – it is Hong Kong’s biggest race day and the eyes of the world will be watching, waiting to see what all the fuss is about.