By David Morgan
Aerovelocity remained on-course for his career swansong in the G1Chairman’s Sprint Prize (1200m) a week on Sunday after satisfying connections in a 1200m all-weather barrier trial at Sha Tin this morning.
The days of dominating such exercises from the front with bounding aplomb are now behind the eight-year-old and jockey Zac Purton was content to track fellow Chairman’s Sprint Prize entrant Blizzard before rolling past in the closing stages to take second as another galloper with that G1 target in his sights, Thewizardofoz, finished ahead. The veteran crossed the line half a length second.
Aerovelocity did nothing to suggest his racecourse farewell will be as glorious as December’s second win in the LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint, but the four-time G1winner did show that he is in a better place than when making all for an otherwise sub-par trial on 11 April.
“It was better than his last one – he had a bit of a setback going into his last trial and trialled accordingly,” trainer Paul O’Sullivan said immediately after this morning’s effort.
“He’s not as good as he once was, he’s rising nine years old, but he trialled well enough this morning where we think he can go to the races and acquit himself well.
“If he can run in the first four, that would be a good result – we give him a pat and bye-bye, away he goes. After this race, that’s it. He’ll definitely be retired.”
Purton has ridden Aerovelocity in the last 20 of the Pins gelding’s 24 starts, including those two Hong Kong Sprint victories and triumphs in the G1 Takamatsunomiya Kinen and G1 KrisFlyer International Sprint.
“There’s no doubt that he’s not the horse that he once was,” the jockey said. “He’s been giving that impression for six months now. But it’s not a vintage race this year.
“His last trial was way below par, but today I felt he was much better; he was much brighter in himself and he was having more of a play going out. He began better and I thought his trial today wasn’t too bad, it felt like he was heading in the right direction and he gave me the feel that he could still surprise and pull out another decent run and set sail into the sunset.
“It’s obviously quite sad knowing I’m only going to get to ride him one more time,” he added. “It’s been a great journey but I suppose at some stage you have to decide when enough is enough and I think it’s the right time.”
Wizard back on the right road
Thewizardofoz went into last year’s Chairman’s Sprint Prize as one of Hong Kong’s rising stars but a 10th place finish took its toll. The John Size trainee reappeared in October with a sub-par 11th in the G2 Premier Bowl Handicap (1200m) but returned from a lay-off with a solid dead-heat third with Blizzard behind Mr Stunning in the G2 Sprint Cup (1200m) on 9 April.
Chad Schofield was delighted after steering the Redoute’s Choice five-year-old first past the post in this morning’s trial, clocking 1m 10.28s.
“He trialled super,” Schofield said. “He actually jumped really nicely today and I just let him be. He travelled nicely, found his rhythm just behind the pace then I peeled him out and let him cruise home under his own steam.
“But the horse felt terrific so let’s hope he’s over his problems and we can see the best of him next weekend. He feels like he’s taken a step forward from his first run and he’s in the right hands, John Size is a genius, he’s definitely improved from that first-up run.”
Blizzard appeared to be in fair order, too, as he trialled under Derek Leung, showing good toe before fading out to finish third. Damian Lane will be aboard the Ricky Yiu-trained chestnut in the big race on 7 May.
“He trialled good, the trainer has kept his horse very well,” Leung said. “He finished well, we gave him a good blow and I’m very happy with him. He jumped OK, but after a couple of strides he lost a little bit of momentum, but he picked up and was travelling well again.”
Aerovelocity (inside) crosses the line second behind Thewizardofoz (outside) in a 1200m dirt barrier trial at Sha Tin today. Blizzard (centre) ran third.