Leviathan owner Simon Kwok Siu-ming confirmed on Sunday that dual Horse of the Year Beauty Generation will not travel to Dubai for next month’s World Cup meeting.
While the seven-year-old’s eighth Group One success in last weekend’s Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup put a trip to Meydan firmly on the table, connections are opting for a different route for their star galloper.
“He’ll have two more races in Hong Kong, the Group Two [Chairman’s Trophy on April 5] and then the Group One [Champions Mile on April 26], and then we’ll go to Japan in June,” Kwok said.
The target in Japan is the Group One Yasuda Kinen (1,600m) in Tokyo on June 7, with Kwok suggesting it could be Beauty Generation’s final race.
“Maybe after running in Japan he will retire,” he said.
That means the champion miler’s attempt at winning a third straight Champions Mile could also be his Hong Kong farewell.
Plans to travel Beauty Generation have been bubbling for what seems like an age and are yet to come to fruition, but should the plan unfold as Kwok has suggested the trip to Japan would also act as John Moore’s big-race swansong as a Hong Kong trainer.
The master handler has long been eager to showcase his star galloper outside Hong Kong before being forced into retirement at the end of the season.
With the last Group One of the Hong Kong season taking place in May, he could get his wish with his last top-level runner as a Sha Tin-based trainer.
Frankie loses Furore
Furore has a new trainer less than 12 months after winning the 2019 Hong Kong Derby, with owner Lee Sheung-chau opting to move the five-year-old from Frankie Lor Fu-chuen to Tony Cruz’s stable.
Lor said the owner is hungry for more big-race success and, after seeing him fall short at Group One level three times in a row, decided it was time for a change.
“The owner made up his mind that the horse cannot win in my stable, they want the horse to win a big race,” Lor said. “Of course I think [I can do it], but anyway, he has moved to Tony Cruz. Tony Cruz is a big trainer so maybe he can help them.”
Furore won two legs of last year’s Classic Series under Lor and was only a length and three quarters behind the victorious Win Bright in the Hong Kong Cup in December, with the trainer understandably disappointed to see the gelding depart his yard on Saturday morning.
“Of course it is disappointing, he only had six starts this season, but it is the owner’s choice,” he said.
Coronavirus lockout continues
The Jockey Club confirmed on Sunday that the current lockout conditions in place to combat the spread of the coronavirus will remain into March.
Only trainers, jockeys, club officials, stewards with race day duties and owners with starters are allowed on course, with the Jockey Club confirming the measures will be in place until at least the Happy Valley meeting on March 4.
There is no racecourse cross betting available, all off-course betting branches remain closed for business and telebet hotlines are suspended until further notice.
Attendance at Sunday’s Classic Cup meeting was a mere 345, down from 21,287 last year, while turnover again took a hit, down 20.68 per cent to $1,162,371,488.
Where there’s smoke, there’s fire
First the anti-government protests and more recently the coronavirus has cast a cloud of uncertainty on Hong Kong racing, but there was an actual cloud hanging over Sha Tin on Sunday afternoon.
With a fire blazing on a range in the Ma On Shan Country Park just across the Shing Mun River from the racetrack, smoke and ash found its way into the parade ring, the winners’ circle and even inside a vacant betting hall.
Water bombers battled the fire as it continued throughout the afternoon and into the evening.
Ash floated above the racetrack as the Classic Cup took place, however the racing carried on as normal and the jockeys said that while they could obviously smell the smoke, they weren’t impeded at all.
Man takes 500th winner in his stride
Manfred Man Ka-leung capped a big week with his 500th winner at Sha Tin on Sunday but there was not an ounce of fanfare from the veteran trainer.
All Best Friends took out the Class Five Wo Che Handicap (1,200m) as the favourite under Zac Purton but it meant nothing more than an ordinary cellar-grade winner for Man.
“It’s nothing special to me,” said Man, who had a double at the Sha Tin midweek meeting. “I’ve only just found out – I only knew about this moment after I won and the press told me it was my 500th winner.”
It was All Best Friends’ first start in Class Five and the first time with Purton in the saddle, with Man suggesting barrier two – along with the appointment of the reigning champion jockey – was crucial after Alex Lai Hoi-wing was left to negotiate gates 11 and 12 in recent defeats.
“Before I gave Alex Lai a try a few times but unfortunately he always got the outside draw at Happy Valley. Two times he went very close,” Man said.
Purton sat third in the run aboard All Best Friends before taking the ascendancy in the final 200m, with the six-year-old winning for the first time since May 2018 and breaking through on the Sha Tin turf for the first time at his 13th attempt.
Visa trouble for Borges
Vagner Borges’ return to Hong Kong has been delayed due to a hold-up with his work visa, with the start of the Brazilian’s short-term contract pushed back from March 1 to March 14.
As a result, the 26-year-old’s stint will now run until June 14, rather than May 31.
Borges, a four-time champion in Brazil, competed at the last five meetings of the 2018-19 season and showed enough to receive an invite back, despite not winning a race.
With an ability to ride lightweight, Borges will be a welcome addition to the jockeys’ roster at a time when the Jockey Club is finding it hard to attract big names.