By David Morgan
Beauty Only this morning (Tuesday, 10 January) had his first barrier trial since a career peak victory in last month’s G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile (1600m) and jockey Zac Purton afterwards expressed his satisfaction, with the upcoming G1 Stewards’ Cup (1600m) next on the agenda.
There was nothing remotely flashy about the six-year-old’s effort today in a 1200m all-weather track trial, and no casual observer would have picked out Tony Cruz’s charge as Hong Kong’s latest standout miler. But then Beauty Only, happiest when racing on hoof-rattling turf, has never been in love with Sha Tin’s dirt surface, and with the Stewards’ Cup (30 January) still three weeks away the talented bay did all that was required.
“He did his thing,” Purton said of the Holy Roman Emperor gelding, who looked to be carrying some condition four weeks after his latest start. “It cleaned his wind out and I’m happy with that going towards the Stewards’ Cup.”
The Australian positioned Beauty Only rearward in the seven-runner heat, niggled his mount on the turn into the straight as the principals quickened up ahead, and then allowed the Italian import to roll home without pressure. Beauty Only passed the post in 1m 11.60s, 11 and a quarter lengths sixth of seven behind the Class 1 course and distance winner Pablosky. The heat “winner” clocked 1m 09.81s.
“It was a pretty solidly run trial and they just got him off the bit a little bit,” Purton continued. “In the straight he stretched out alright - he’s never impressive on the dirt and he just did what he needed to do.”
That first heat of the morning also featured Beauty Only’s stablemate, the multiple G1 winner Blazing Speed. The eight-year-old, last seen finishing a fair fifth in the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup (2000m) on 11 December, is another preparing for the Stewards’ Cup. Cruz’s charge won the race in 2014 but the gelding’s prime early year target is the G1 Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup (2000m) at the end of February.
Regular partner Neil Callan steered the veteran to an easy fourth (1m 10.86s), six and a half lengths off the first horse.
“He’s a bit older so he only just does what he has to do but he jumped smartly, he travelled up quite nicely and I’ve just let them go and let him run to the line under his own steam, so he’s in good form,” Callan said.
“He has to run in the Stewards’ Cup because there’s nowhere else to go - Tony has to get race fitness into him with a view of going to the Hong Kong Gold Cup, that’ll be his race.”
Meanwhile, the G2 Centenary Sprint Cup (1200m) is the intended next port of call for Strathmore. Tony Millard’s stalwart appeared to be in good heart for his first trial since a slightly disappointing ninth in the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) last month. The five-year-old travelled well enough this morning to cross the line a length and a half second behind Pablosky, in a time of 1m 10.05s.
“That was a nice trial, he needed it a bit, and now we go towards the Centenary Sprint Cup, the Group 2 at Chinese New Year. I think he’ll come on - he’s looking magnificent and he’s moving well,” Millard said.
“The Hong Kong Sprint just came a little bit quick after having a setback. We gave him the one run into that, which was a good run but then he came in second run off a break and he just had a little bit of a down. And he didn’t have things his way in the international race - he didn’t have a trouble-free run, he got trapped on the rail - so he’s a better horse than what you saw there.
“He’s done very nicely since his last run and I liked the way he went today,” Millard continued. “We’ll most probably give him one more trial and he should be there.”
The John Moore-trained Pablosky will likely line-up next in a Class 1 1200m all-weather contest at Sha Tin’s night meeting on Wednesday, 18 January.
Beauty Only has an easy trial this morning with Zac Purton on board.
Strathmore finishes second in an all-weather 1200m barrier trial at Sha Tin this morning.