By David Morgan
Giant Treasure and Beauty Only rank in the highest echelon of Hong Kong’s milers and yet each is heading towards Sunday’s (20 November) G2 BOCHK Wealth Management Jockey Club Mile with a point to prove.
The HK$4 million contest is one of three features at Sha Tin this weekend that comprise the Jockey Club Raceday, the main lead-up to the HK$83 million LONGINES Hong Kong International Races on 11 December. The other two features are the G2 LONGINES Jockey Club Cup (2000m) and the G2 BOCHK Wealth Management Jockey Club Sprint (1200m).
Giant Treasure will carry a 5lb penalty in the Jockey Club Mile, evidence of a Group 1 score within the past 12 months. That career peak came in last January’s Stewards’ Cup, but despite an elite win on the board, trainer Richard Gibson believes the enigmatic grey should have achieved more in a 16-race Hong Kong career to date.
“He’s complex but exceptionally talented,” the Englishman said. The truth of that statement is borne out by a scan of the five-year-old’s form record. This time last year the Mizzen Mast gelding had a brace of 1400m wins in Class 3 and Class 2 to show for his ability, but also a couple of placed efforts in the Hong Kong Classic Mile and Hong Kong Classic Cup, the first two legs of the prestigious 4YO Classic Series.
“He’s a test to train because he’s got a lot of exciting talent but he doesn’t always tick all the boxes on race day and everything has got to go really smoothly for him to perform at his best. But he’s certainly got the talent,” Gibson explained.
After a fourth-place finish in last year’s Jockey Club Mile - his fourth start that term without success - the pieces all began to fall into place for Giant Treasure. Gibson fitted blinkers for the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile and Christophe Soumillon elicited a rare sweet tune, a whistling rail run that split Maurice and Able Friend. The Stewards’ Cup win followed a month later, and then a dip in form.
“Soumillon gets on very well with this horse, so it’s probably pretty sensible that the owner has brought him over for Sunday,” Gibson said. “He does seem to get the best out of the horse.”
After sputtering through to the end of last season with three sub-par runs - sans Soumillon for the last two - Giant Treasure returned to action last month in the G2 Premier Bowl Handicap, his first attempt at 1200m. The American-bred British import finished 10th of 12 under Neil Callan but was not disgraced first-up for the campaign against top-class specialist sprinters Lucky Bubbles, Aerovelocity, Peniaphobia et al.
“I’m pleased with how the horse has come out of his last race,” Gibson said. “We’re doing another change in headgear and now we’re back in the mile division where we’re very familiar with the rest of the field. He’s right up there as one of the top milers in Hong Kong. Few horses in that field could get within half a length of Maurice like he did.”
With December’s G1 showcase enlarging on the approaching horizon, Tony Cruz, like Gibson, is hoping things will fall into place for his crack miler, Beauty Only. The 2015 HKG1 Hong Kong Classic Mile victor has long threatened to make his mark in open G1 grade but has fallen short so far.
Pace seems to be the issue for the fast ground lover. Not that the gelding lacks it; the Italian import possesses a withering late turn of foot. That was exemplified last start when the five-year-old stormed home off a messy tempo to run a half-length third behind Designs On Rome in the G2 Sha Tin Trophy Handicap at the course and distance.
“He should have won last time but that turned into a messy race, there wasn’t enough pace on for him,” Cruz said. “He needs that good pace to bring out his best. Once the pace is on I’m sure that, even if he’s at the back, he has the pace to catch them. He has a big last quarter.”
Beauty Only’s closing 400m last time was clocked at a swift 21.83s and saw him close off from second-last at the turn into the straight under Douglas Whyte. Zac Purton is slated to take the ride on Sunday as the gelding aims for a sixth win at start 23 in Hong Kong and first in open Pattern company.
“The horse is almost at his peak condition now, so I’m very happy with him going into Sunday’s race. He’s done everything I wanted him to do,” Cruz said.
This time last year the Holy Roman Emperor bay was about to stretch to 2000m and a close third in the Jockey Club Cup, a run that preceded a moderate eighth in the LONGINES Hong Kong Cup (2000m). That in turn prompted a return to the mile ranks.
“I’d say he’s in better form this time around than he was going into this meeting last year,” Cruz said. “His condition is good and he’s much fitter than at the same stage last year. He’s been carrying some big weights in handicaps and on Sunday he doesn’t have to do that, he doesn’t have to carry a penalty, and I expect him to show his best.”
The exciting line-up of 11 entries for the Jockey Club Mile also features last season’s G1 Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup (1400m) victor Contentment and last season’s champion miler Sun Jewellery, both from the John Size stable, and the John Moore yard’s rising stars Helene Paragon and Joyful Trinity.
Giant Treasure (grey) gets the better of Luger and Contentment to win the G1 Stewards�� Cup at Sha Tin.
Neil Callan guides Beauty Only to victory in the HKG2 Chairman��s Trophy last term.