It wasn’t the fairy tale result, but Beauty Generation’s effort to dead-heat for second behind Golden Sixty in Sunday’s Celebration Cup ensured a weight was lifted off David Hayes’ shoulders.
It is never easy taking on the responsibility of training a champion in the twilight of his career – especially from the legendary John Moore – but the two-time Hong Kong Horse of the Year showed he is still a force to be reckoned with.
Carrying 133 pounds and giving weight to all of his rivals – including 17 pounds to rising star Golden Sixty – the 1,400m Group Three was always going to be a real test, one where he could be vulnerable.
But the eight-year-old still has something in the tank and extended his remarkable streak of not missing a place to 18 starts – a run that began almost two-and-a-half years ago.
“I am just bloody happy he didn’t run fourth because he hadn’t done that in a long time,” Hayes said with a smile. “I know now that what I am doing with him is working so we don’t have to panic and change things. I can’t wait to get to the [set weights] races, he will get stronger at the mile.”
Things didn’t all go Beauty Generation’s way in the run. After settling in the box-seat from barrier one with regular rider Zac Purton in the saddle, he didn’t find clear running until the last 200m – navigating traffic is not something he has been used to doing throughout his career – but he hit the line nicely to finished tied for second with Champion’s Way.
It gives Hayes a lot of confidence heading towards his main target, the Group One Hong Kong Mile in December.
“I think he has a big race in him for sure,” Hayes said. “I think he would have run a clear second if he could get straight through. Last time in this race, he didn’t have to give a horse like that  pounds so it was like a winning performance, he didn’t have as hard a run as last year either.
“Zac’s thinking maybe blinkers to sharpen him up a bit, but it is whether we do that in the next run under these conditions again or put them on in a real race.”
Purton thought it was a solid effort from the superstar given the circumstances.
“Golden Sixty has shown he’s a good horse but the conditions of the race suited him, I’m happy to stick with [Beauty Generation] going forward,” he said.
“He’s still got a bit of condition on him and he’s a lot more relaxed in the mornings – David is taking more of a long-term view. He should take a lot of improvement from that.”
Beauty Generation is set to follow the same path he has for the previous three seasons and will tackle the Oriental Watch Sha Tin Trophy (1,600m) next month.
Poon to Charge On into dessert
After a few close shaves, jockey Matthew Poon Ming-fai secured his first victory of the season at Sha Tin on Sunday and he felt there was only one way to celebrate.
The talented 26-year-old had recorded four seconds before breaking through aboard Charge On for his old boss David Hall in the second section of the Class Four Swallow Handicap (1,400m) and when asked how it felt to get the monkey off his back, there was one thing on his mind.
“I feel like I can go home and have an ice cream,” Poon laughed.
“I’ve had a few seconds – two of them by very narrow margins – so that has been a bit frustrating, but it’s good to get that first winner.”
Charge On now has two wins from his six starts and was able to take full advantage of a better gate so he didn’t have quite as much work to do in the run to the line.
“This time he drew a good barrier and was able to settle a little bit closer,” Poon said. “In the run home, he tried very hard. He still gets a little bit lost, but hopefully can keep improving with experience. He can still get fitter.”
Lift-off for Millard
Tony Millard’s knack of improving stable-change acquisitions was on show at Sha Tin on Sunday, with the South African saluting at the first time of asking with Galactic in the Class Four Shrike Handicap (1,200m).
In his first start since moving to Millard from the Douglas Whyte yard, Galactic travelled just off the leader under Antoine Hamelin before hitting the front early in the straight and hanging on to win.
“He just lacked confidence and he just needed a bit of time. I could see why the previous trainer liked him so much,” Millard said of the four-year-old, whose best finish was third from four starts under Whyte.
“All I can say is that I think he was a little bit inexperienced and he was immature. But he’s been a lovely horse, he’s got a very big action and we’re hoping he’ll go further but we might try another 1,200m with him.”
Wash up from the stewards
Matthew Chadwick was the only jockey to earn the wrath of stewards on Sunday, copping a two-meeting suspension for careless riding on The Drive in the third race.
He is the third rider to be suspended this week after Karis Teetan and Keith Yeung Ming-lun earned bans at Happy Valley on Wednesday night.
Meanwhile, John Size’s sprinter Country Star will be retired after bleeding for a second time in the final race of the day.
The five-year-old made his mark during a sensational 2018-19 season, winning five races on his way to taking out the Happy Valley Million Challenge.