Persian Knight on Thursday morning galloped over the notion that Beauty Generation is already across the line in Sunday’s G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile.
Trainer Yasutoshi Ikee’s G1 winner thundered along the final 400m of the Sha Tin turf course in 22.3s, clocking 1m 25.6s for 1200m. That smart workout, brimming with vitality, came after the 2017 G1 Mile Championship winner had appeared restless in his slower paces.
“Beauty Generation seems to be very strong opposition for us this year and could be difficult to beat,” said Ikee, echoing the common script so far.
“But Persian Knight is training quite well at the moment,” he added. “So if we can run our race, I hope we will have a chance. It would be great to win the Hong Kong Mile over such an impressive horse as Beauty Generation.”
For his part, the local hero worked under floodlights at 6am sharp. Jockey Zac Purton guided John Moore’s stable star around 1200m of the all-weather track in an easy 1m 25.7s (32.6, 27.9, 25.2).
Persian Knight (JPN) on the Turf on Thursday morning, picture Liesl King
After Werther was scratched from the LONGINES Hong Kong Cup yesterday with a probable career-ending injury, Moore was keen to avoid drama for a second day in a row. What he saw was a healthy horse, but one that did, nonetheless, cock his head to one side and hang just a touch as he strode out down the home run.
“Let’s hope he goes straight on race day,” Purton said, alluding to the stark shift across the track’s width in last month’s astonishing course record-lowering G2 Jockey Club Mile.
“He went through his paces quite well; he always strides out well. He’s not out there to break any records; he’s just going through the motions. He’s where he needs to be, he’s done his work.”
A chink in Beauty’s armour?
Moore was satisfied – both with the work and that the bruising to his champ’s foot that accompanied his win almost three weeks ago is no longer an issue.
“Zac let him come wide on the corner and we know that when he does gallop, his style is to carry his head on the side when he starts to go under pressure a bit – so he does always get off a line that wee bit,” he said. “I’m not concerned about it, though.
“I think the horse is getting into a little bit of a habit – he has a tendency to get his head on the side on the right and tends to hang out that bit. He fanned on the corner, and it appeared he was hanging out that little bit this morning but we went through him with a fine-toothed comb and as far as we’re concerned he’s sound. He’s just holding his form – he’s jumping out of his skin.”
Beauty Generation walked soundly, moved with a relaxed rhythm, and is clearly hard fit. And yet the six-year-old did not emit the same heightened level of bold confidence from his primed frame as at the same juncture before his track record-smashing last start. Such things are relative, of course, and open to subjective interpretation, but perhaps the “hanging” is a sign of just the slightest of chinks in the gelding’s perceived invincibility.
Japan’s challengers will certainly be hoping that is the case.
Persian Knight’s sharp gallop today – three days out from the big race – followed the eye-catching work of fellow Japanese challengers Mozu Ascot and Vivlos 24 hours earlier. Both looked impressive as they warmed up for the Mile and a tilt at Beauty Generation.
And with his G1 Yasuda Kinen winner evidently in good heart, Mozu Ascot’s handler Yoshito Yahagi was in no mood for outright obeisance to the local hero.
“I have great respect for Beauty Generation’s achievements, but I’d never think there wasn’t a chance I could beat him,” he said.
“Mozu Ascot is training well and in good condition. I wouldn’t have come if I didn’t think I had a chance to win. Even with the potential rainy forecast, I think we’ll run well on softer ground since he has so much power.”
Those comments came before the late-morning barrier draw for the Mile, in which Mozu Ascot nabbed gate two; Persian Knight drew widest of all in 14, with Beauty Generation posted two berths inside in gate 12.
“At the end we were down to just the far outside and the far inside, and of the two, I prefer being on the outside,” Ikee said of Persian Knight’s lot.