Boom youngster Aethero has bounced back from a lacklustre last start effort to deliver a stunning performance at Sha Tin on Saturday, bettering Sacred Kingdom’s long-standing 1,000m track record.
The precocious three-year-old blitzed his rivals in the Class Two Wo Tik Handicap and put his trainer John Moore’s Group One ambitions back on track in the best possible way.
The master trainer – who is being forced into retirement at the end of the season – admitted Aethero’s reputation took a hit last start when he got beaten in his first attempt in Class Two but he showed his true colours on Saturday.
“It did hurt when he got beaten because I knew he was better than that,” Moore said. “You like to keep them on that winning form and keep it going.”
Saturday’s race had all the makings of a match race between Aethero and another highly rated young sprinter in Voyage Warrior, but Moore’s galloper proved he is in a different class when he breezed by Ricky Yiu Poon-fai’s runner at the 250m mark.
In doing so, he shaved one hundredth of a second off Sacred Kingdom’s 12-year 1,000m Sha Tin track record and put the writing on the wall for a mouth-watering showdown against Hong Kong’s elite speedsters next month in the Group Two Jockey Club Sprint (1,200m).
“I thought he might have to break it today to show his true colours because Voyage Warrior is no slouch and has done everything right,” Moore said.
A dash of history!— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) October 12, 2019
Aethero dips inside the great Sacred Kingdom's course record set in 2007 (54.70s), scorching the track in 54.69s for John Moore and Joao Moreira. #HKracing pic.twitter.com/XjqELuA0eq
“So what he did today in breaking the record just shows what I have been saying about him, I believe he has the makings of a superstar.
“He still has work to do, reason being as you saw when he ran over 1,200m he got very unbalanced, he was not comfortable in that situation so it is a work in progress still. But he broke the record, what more can he do?”
After starting no more than $1.6 in betting in his first four career starts, Aethero surprisingly drifted on Saturday, getting out to $4.35 while Voyage Warrior was savagely backed into a prohibitive odds-on quote of $1.7.
While jockey Joao Moreira teamed up with Moore for the win, the Australian said rival Zac Purton would return to ride the speedster in the Jockey Club Sprint, should he want it.
Purton rode Voyage Warrior on Saturday after being previously booked before the decision was made to take Aethero to the race.
“Zac has got the ride unless he wants to go for something else, then I will ask Joao,” he said.
“Zac always had the ride and he had the booking of Voyage Warrior five or six weeks back so I couldn’t get him off that today. He’s a nice substitute to have, Joao waiting in the wings.”
The dominance of Aethero’s win had Moore comparing his three-year-old to the great Able Friend who Moore took to great heights.
“Joao had commented that he is verging on another Able Fiend,” Moore said.
“It is exciting – exciting for the stable, exciting for the owner and exciting for the racing public that we have another very smart sprinter on our hands.
“He is not as advanced as what Able Friend was at the same age, he is still very goofy.”
While Moore is focused on December’s Group One Hong Kong Sprint with Aethero, he believes he will be able to run over a mile once he straightens out a few of his racing quirks.
“Joao said I had to keep niggling, he is looking for ground, he will get a mile for sure,” he said.