Four Group Ones on a single card this weekend saw a packed media room at Sha Tin racecourse here in Hong Kong with expectations for both the local and International challengers and the prospect of something pretty special.
I glanced more than watched the earlier handicaps with my ignorance of the form having no limits before we came all too quickly to race four where I was adamant of a big run from Epsom Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck – how wrong can you be? I was a little worried by the application of blinkers though I may be making excuses in advance as he ran throughout out in snatches, having to be pushed along in a slowly run race before fading when eased to come home in his own time. You can argue that wasn’t his form or (horror of horrors), perhaps he just isn’t any good, though whether that will be the wake-up call that we are no longer entitled to be the best in the World and need to go out there and prove it is another question.
One loser down and on to the sprint where I was hoping to see an electric performance from Aethero who is the talk of the town here in Hong Kong. With my confidence knocked after the poor efforts of the Europeans my bet size dropped accordingly and at odds on, I was starting to chicken out with value a high priority – my best decision so far on the day. Joao Moreira came home in front once again this time on board 11/2 chance Beat The Clock. Aethero was sent off a prohibitive 1/3 chance at the off but never really got away from his field as hoped before finishing third, where I felt a little bit of inexperience harmed his cause as he failed to quicken clear and looked to change his legs before being swamped late by the first two near to the line.
Two more to go and the questions were all about Beauty Generation – was he suddenly past it, or were two losses merely a blip on his record? Only time will tell if his time has been and gone but another third suggests he may be on a downward curve, though he wasn’t beaten too far by 26/1 shot Admire Mars for Japan and locally trained Waikuku in a bunch finish.
One to go and only Ryan Moore can accurately explain what exactly happened to Magic Wand as she somehow lost the last of the Group One contests. Up near the pace she failed to get a clear run not once but twice before looking as if she would fade away up the straight. Amazingly that was not the case as she picked up late on again and was flying at the death to be beaten a short head at the line and would have won in another couple of strides, making her the top European performer on the day.
With my word count close to complete and the day drawing to an end, conclusions are needed and what can I say. Despite loving every minute of racing in the UK (and Europe), the evidence is there in the formbook now that we aren’t as good as we think we are, with an Epsom Derby winner beaten over fourteen lengths in Hong Kong – who would have thought. Joao Moreira is as good as it gets in the saddle and is becoming loved by the people once again, while the standard of the Japanese continues to rise, and they will be a force to reckon with for years to come. As a champion of international racing I love days like these, now all we need to do is persuade our owners and trainers to travel a bit more often, so we call all see how we compare from continent to continent.
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Sean Trivass was a guest of the Hong Kong Jockey club and would like to thank them for all their assistance in writing this article.