Waikuku emerges as HK's main Mile hope
4YO steps out of Beauty Generation's shadow by winning the Jockey Club Mile
Waikuku on Sunday shifted out of Beauty Generation's shadow with a decisive rail-side burst that has him vying to be Hong Kong's No. 1 hope for the Group 1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile over 1,600m in three weeks.
"It looks a bit that way," said trainer John Size, after the improving four-year-old had upset the 1.3 favourite in the Group 2 Jockey Club Mile over the same distance.
"Beauty Generation will still have his fans and he's going to run under different circumstances on the big day, so I think he'll probably hold his place. He'll be the horse to beat again."
Beauty Generation finished third for the second race on the bounce, having dominated the Sha Tin mile through 10 straight wins and two Horse of the Year titles.
Last month's turnaround, when conceding hefty weight to his talented rivals, was one thing, going down in a seven-runner field under a lighter 5lb (2.27kg) penalty was unexpected.
"It was a surprise but it was a good surprise," said winning jockey Joao Moreira, after Waikuku triumphed in 1min 32.89sec.
The Brazilian enjoyed a smooth passage on the Irish import.
The front pair of Beauty Generation and Ka Ying Star raced some way off the rail in the early stages before the former settled into his usual position, rolling rhythmically at the head in anticipation of an opponent-demolishing finishing drive.
But that famous Beauty Generation power was missing this time.
"He stayed off the fence in the back straight and then came back in and Zac (Purton) said he felt comfortable, he was happy with how he got there. He thought on the corner he would let down and really kick hard but he didn't," said a disappointed John Moore of his stable's champ.
Waikuku stalked Beauty Generation - with runner-up Ka Ying Star racing on his outer flank. When the big horse rolled off the rail in the home straight, Moreira took his chance.
"When we were turning for home, Ka Ying Star wasn't giving ground, he was holding me in there and I was forced to hold and hope the gap would come inside the leader, Beauty Generation," said the jockey.
"Once it came, my horse was full-on. He just went for it and didn't hesitate to go through. Good horses do it, they go through small gaps, and he has proven himself."
Moore was deflated but not despondent about Beauty Generation's defeat, as he looked towards the seven-year-old's attempt at a third straight win in the Hong Kong Mile.
"Zac said don't worry about that run, he'll come back," the handler revealed.
"He said we just need to tweak something to make sure on the big day that he'll kick. We just need to find out what, because he's not finding that usual kick. Today was a repeat of what he did when he was beaten in his second start."
Size and Moreira, meanwhile, were on the same page about Waikuku taking on the champ again in next month's Hong Kong Mile to Group 1 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup over 2,000m.
"Probably the mile won't be as strong as the Hong Kong Cup, because Almond Eye is coming for the 2,000m race and she's one of the best in the world at the moment. I'm happy to ride my bloke in the mile," said Moreira.
Size added: "He's been very good at the 1,600, so we'll stay there." - HKJC