Joao Moreira is unsure whether Beat The Clock can beat Aethero in this weekend’s Group Two Jockey Club Sprint (1,200m) but after two Group One successes aboard the horse, the Brazilian couldn’t bring himself to part from his old friend.
Moreira has been aboard for all eight of Beat The Clock’s wins – including two at the top level last season – and wants to make sure he is around for any more success the horse has.
“He’s been a very good horse for me and what he’s done in the past, there are very few horses who are able to do that,” Moreira said.
“He’s never run out of the first three and I hope he can continue. He feels like he’s a few steps behind what he needs to be to be showing his very best but we need to go to the races and start off somewhere. It’s a proper race to start off.”
Moreira rode Aethero to his last-start victory and would have had to ride the lightest he has in years to get down to the 113 the three-year-old carries on Sunday, with Karis Teetan stepping into the breach.
Moreira admitted it was a “difficult” decision to make but also said being in a position where he had to make a choice between two high-calibre gallopers was one he welcomed.
“Honestly, yes,” Moreira said when asked if he seriously considered jumping off the John Size-trained Beat The Clock. “Because Aethero, which might even be favourite [on Sunday], seems a very promising horse and if my bloke can’t bring his best he will get beaten by Aethero in my opinion.
“But what my horse has done in the past is outstanding and I know if he keeps that form he is going to be very hard to beat.”
The shoe is on the other foot for Teetan, who by taking the ride on Aethero has ensured he will lock horns with the horse that has delivered him his biggest triumph in Mr Stunning.
The pair combined to win last year’s Group One Longines Hong Kong Sprint (1,200m), with Mr Stunning going back-to-back in the race and Teetan winning his first international Group One.
“I was asked about Mr Stunning before the season started and Zac [Purton] was not sure which horse he was going to ride but to be honest when the ride of Aethero came along I could not wait any more, I had to take it,” Teetan said. “I thought ‘let’s take what’s good for now and we always can think again in the future’.”
While Teetan is comfortable with his decision, he is well aware that Mr Stunning is far from a spent force.
“The way Mr Stunning trialled he looks like he’s returning to his old self. He’s been there for a while and he’s a very good horse, so I would not be surprised if he puts in some good runs,” the jockey said.
“It’s going to be interesting because he is only having his first run on Sunday and given the weight difference and the way Aethero is going at the moment, of course you would have to have him as your first pick ahead of Mr Stunning. But you don’t know what could happen in the future.”
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
The biggest question hanging over Aethero is his ability to handle the pressure of a top-class 1,200m race after he over-raced and looked uncomfortable in traffic when running third at the trip two starts back.
“I’m actually happy we’ve got an outside gate so he will have a chance to get into his momentum with the light weight,” Teetan said.
“It’s about time for him to take on the big boys, he’s still a young horse but John [Moore] seems to be pretty confident he’s going to go out and run very well.
“He feels like there could be room to improve and the feel he gives you is that of a good horse. So far he’s done most things right, he just had the one bad run where things didn’t go his way but then he went down the straight and was impressive.”