Beauty Generation is viewed as an indomitable force on the Hong Kong scene these days but in Sunday’s (17 February) G1 Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup the champion will face-off against the last horse to have rattled his cage when it counted, Beat The Clock.
The John Size-trained five-year-old ran the “master miler” to a head in this 1400m contest 12 months ago. The rivals have not met since, with Beauty Generation stringing together a sequence of six wins at 1400m and a mile and Beat The Clock carving a niche as an elite sprinter.
Size will also saddle the talented Conte in the HK$10 million feature and he knows that it will take a big performance from either of his challengers if they are to dent Beauty Generation’s reputation.
“Beauty Generation is one of those horses that – as his jockey has said many times – if you try to beat him with tactics you’re just going to beat yourself, so that’s not going to work. And that applies to all the champions; it doesn’t matter what you try and do to upset them, you just get yourself beat because you’ve got an inferior horse,” the handler said this morning (Friday, 15 February).
Size’s stable jockey Joao Moreira partnered Beat The Clock to a breakthrough G1 score in last month’s Centenary Sprint Cup (1200m). He was also aboard Conte when that talented galloper was given a lesson in elite mile racing last time, when three lengths runner-up to the John Moore-trained standout in the G1 Stewards’ Cup (1600m).
The Brazilian held the reins a year ago when Beat The Clock closed to within inches of defeating Beauty Generation and he has opted to side with the bay on Sunday too.
“Beauty Generation is beatable,” Moreira said. “Nobody lasts forever. Yes, he is the best horse in Hong Kong right now but we do have a horse with the potential to beat him.
“Beat The Clock is a very nice horse and he’s now showing his very best. His last 400 metres is quite impressive: if he’s able to produce that we’ll probably give a nice run to Beauty Generation.
“If he’s really gone to the level that we think he’s gone to, we’re probably going to be a chance to win. I’m quite excited about the race.”
With Beauty Generation now rated 127 internationally and Beat The Clock 120, Size is more circumspect in his nonetheless positive assessment of what promises to be a gripping minute and twenty seconds or so of sport.
“I don’t think you can gauge them purely on their ratings: the tempo of the race is going to have a play in it – see if there’s any speed or not – and we’ve got distance changes for all three horses,” he said.
“Beat The Clock goes up in distance, and he raced well at 1400 metres last season, and Conte and Beauty Generation come back, so I think it’s an interesting exercise. Even though it’s a small field and there are some good horses in, it’s certainly interesting to see how it plays out.”
While the Moore camp has a slight reservation about the six-year-old superstar dropping down to 1400m, the Size camp has a mild qualm about the step up from 1200m for Beat The Clock.
“He looks like a 1300-metre horse, I guess, so he’s somewhere in the middle,” Size said. “If they run it at a speed that suits his finishing speed, well that’s where he’ll have an advantage; if it’s too testing for him then Beauty Generation and Conte will have an advantage.
“But, of course, the tempo isn’t always consistent in the run: it changes too, so I think it’s fascinating.”
Ryan Moore will fly in to take the reins on Conte. The gelding has risen through the grades and won his first attempt at a Pattern race, a course and distance G3 on 1 January, before stepping into a fiery G1 baptism against Beauty Generation last time.
“It’s a good example of seeing a horse come through the classes and then race in a Group 1,” Size said. “He didn’t look anything special in the finish of the race (Stewards’ Cup), and he looked like 1600 tested him, so I’d be hoping after he’s had that experience, coming back 200 metres might lean more towards his benefit. Whether that gets him in the first three, I’m not sure.”
Beauty Generation is expected to start a hot favourite to extend his winning run as he builds towards his major late-season target, the G1 Champions Mile.
“No one is going to be surprised if he keeps winning but we live in hope, with the vagaries of racing that change daily, we sort of imagine we have a chance,” Size said, adding with a telling laugh, “That’s how we live, otherwise we can’t get out of bed!”
The Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup is one of three features on the 10-race Sha Tin card, along with the G1 Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup (2000m) and the Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m), the second leg in the three-race Four-Year-Old Classic Series.
– News from Hong Kong Jockey Club