By David Morgan
Aerovelocity had that fire in his belly indicative of his wellbeing before confirming as much with a smart barrier trial performance at Sha Tin this morning (Friday, 23 September).
The bull-headed bay sent folk shifting for cover as he bowled across the sand yard and then worked his lads at a jog through the tunnel. Regular ally Zac Purton was, as usual, legged up trackside and then bounced the triple G1 winner to the lead in the 12-runner heat, a position he retained right to the post as he clocked 1m 02.07s through 1050m on the all-weather.
It was a smart first trial of the season for the 2014 G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) winner. The New Zealand-bred Pins gelding is aiming to get back on track after an aborted second tilt at Japan’s G1 Takamatsunomiya Kinen (1200m) in March. Aerovelocity suffered a bout of colic during that trip and his one outing since that health setback brought a below par eighth in the G1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize (1200m) at Sha Tin on 1 May.
“He got a ‘pass’ from Zac and that’s hard to get,” said a chirpy Paul O’Sullivan, Aerovelocity’s trainer, post-trial. “He’s still pretty big in condition but he’s got another trial and then a couple of races leading into the international (Hong Kong Sprint) but he’s eight years old and anything from here on in will be a bonus - but this morning was very good.
“The plan is the Premier Bowl (23 October) followed by the trial sprint in November and then the Hong Kong Sprint. It worked two years ago!”
Helene Paragon and Contentment building up
The morning’s trial session kicked off with two other standouts on show, last season’s G1 Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup (1400m) hero Contentment from the John Size stable and the John Moore-trained Helene Paragon.
Moore has high hopes for the latter this term. Helene Paragon emerged as a serious prospect last season with four wins from eight, notably the HKG3 Premier Plate Handicap (1800m) at Sha Tin in June, in which he set a new track record.
“It’s the start to his campaign, so I was pleased with that,” Moore said after watching Joao Moreira guide the four-year-old Polan colt to four lengths fifth (1m 10.64s) in the 1200m all-weather track trial.
“He will go first up in the 1400-metre race (G3 Celebration Cup) on October 1st and then build into it. Joao won't ride him in that race, Sam Clipperton will be on board. Joao will be on Joyful Trinity because he’s a bit more advanced with respect to fitness.
“We’re targeting Helene Paragon at the Hong Kong Mile in December, so he’ll run again on the 23rd of October at the 1600 metres (Oriental Watch 55th Anniversary Sha Tin Trophy) and I’m sure Joao will be back on board for that.
“This horse really enjoys his racing, he’s such a competitive fella,” Moore continued. “If he can repeat what he did last season, breaking the track record and everything, I’d like to dream on a bit and just hope that he could improve fractionally, which would be good enough to put him right there when the Hong Kong Mile comes up, having that home town advantage.”
Contentment looked to be in fine fettle for his second barrier trial since the summer break. The Australian-bred six-year-old travelled handily under Brett Prebble to finish in a time of 1m 10.26s, a length and a half second behind the heat “winner” Spicy Sure.
“He was happy,” Prebble said. “He went through the motions and just had a fitness trial. John’s, normally, don't get too competitive in the trials but he’s going the right way.”
Latest on Able Friend
Moore, meanwhile, had news of his sidelined super star, Able Friend, not seen in action since running third behind Maurice in an epic edition of the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile. The 2014 victor has that race as the prime target once again and could step out over shorter for a one-race prep.
“Able Friend is always the question mark - once we step up his work we’ll get a better idea of how he’ll cope with everything,” Moore said.
“We’ll take it slowly with him to see how he is and the programme is out there. We’ll decide whether he has just the one run before the mile in December and that would likely be the trial sprint in November. It’s looking more like that with the setback because we’ve lost three weeks.”
The seven-year-old returned from Australia last month, where he had undergone rehabilitation for a tendon injury to his off fore leg, but on 3 September, whilst at Sha Tin’s quarantine stables, Able Friend was spooked by a passing truck, fell through a plastic rail and cut a leg.
“Hopefully we’ll have him back in the next day or two in the (trotting) ring here. We're swimming him already, because we’re just building him up behind where he fell on his rear,” explained Moore.
“He’s not a very good jumper!” the trainer joked. “He couldn’t get over four and a half foot. I reckon I could dive over it. He wasn’t at speed when he went to do it, he was virtually standing.”
Ridden by Zac Purton, Aerovelocity took the HKG1 Centenary Sprint Cup at Sha Tin last season.