Old rivals clash amid contrasting vibes in Sunday’s Jockey Club Mile
Beauty Only and Helene Paragon will take their rivalry into Sunday’s G2 BOCHK Wealth Management Jockey Club Mile (1600m) this Sunday possessing identical handicap ratings (127) but exuding contrasting vibes.
The pair topped Hong Kong’s mile ranks last season. The Tony Cruz-trained Beauty Only won the Jockey Club Mile and the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile (1600m) to claim the overall Champion Miler title, while John Moore’s Helene Paragon snared the G1 Stewards’ Cup (1600m) and the G1 Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup (1400m).
“Last season, Beauty Only and Helene Paragon had the mile races between them, they were the standout two,” said Beauty Only’s regular partner, Zac Purton.
“When they’re both at their best, I think there’s not much between them. Helene Paragon has a bit more tactical speed, whereas my bloke relies on the tempo of the races. It really just comes down to the way the races are run as to which horse finishes in front of the other.”
Moore, though, is bullish that he has the better miler.
“I’ve always thought that Helene Paragon is a half-length or a length better than Beauty Only,” he said. “If he hadn’t got impeded at a crucial stage coming into the straight in the Hong Kong Mile last year, I think we would have beaten him.”
On that occasion, Helene Paragon ran home a half-length second to Beauty Only under Hugh Bowman. The winner clocked 22.81s in the final 400m, with Helene Paragon a nick slower in 22.82s.
Zac Purton celebrates as Beauty Only gets the better of Helene Paragon (left) to win the 2016 edition of the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile at Sha Tin, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club
Helene Paragon has raced once this term – seventh, two places ahead of Beauty Only in last month’s G2 Sha Tin Trophy Handicap. The Polan entire appears to have taken that race well and was clearly in good heart when an easy fourth under Tommy Berry in a 1000m turf barrier trial a week ago.
“Tommy got off and said he feels that he’s fit enough to run a big race on Sunday so there won’t be any more serious work before then. Hopefully we get a draw and a nice run,” Moore said.
Beauty Only’s latest trial, a 1200m dirt affair four days ago, offered up a different picture, one that has placed Purton on a cautionary footing.
“He probably didn't finish the trial off as well as I would have hoped, really,” he said of that effort, in which Beauty Only, never one to shine on the dirt track, was sixth of seven.
“We know he’s never been a good trialler, especially on the dirt, so that’s nothing new, but at the stage he’s at and with the fitness levels he’s got, I’d have liked him to have finished off his trial a bit better the other day.”
The Australian ace was in the plate when Beauty Only won last year’s edition of the BOCHK Wealth Management Jockey Club Mile, and again when the white-faced bay followed up in December’s Hong Kong Mile. But Purton wants to see some of the old spark return.
“He needs to come out and show us that he’s still going to be competitive in the Hong Kong Mile on International day,” he said. “He just needs to improve a little bit on what he’s been doing, and at the moment I’m more hopeful than confident that that’s what’s going to happen.”
Purton has an arrangement to ride horses under the Kwok family ownership and that could open the prospect of the rider shifting to the Moore-trained Beauty Generation in December if Beauty Only fails to shine on Sunday.
“We’ll see what happens and then assess it after that, but Beauty Generation is racing for the same interests, so if Beauty Only isn’t sparkling come December, there’s that possibility that I might ride Beauty Generation,” he said.
And of the rivalry, he added: “Helene Paragon hasn’t had much racing yet this season and my bloke just seems to be needing the runs at the moment.”
Sunday’s card features the three premier lead-up races to the LONGINES Hong Kong International Races on Sunday, 10 December. As well as the BOCHK Wealth Management Jockey Club Mile, the afternoon includes the G2 BOCHK Jockey Club Cup (2000m) and the G2 BOCHK Wealth Management Jockey Club Sprint (1200m).