After Aethero won in track record time on Saturday, trainer John Moore has to make a call on who rides the horse in his next HK assignment. Photo by HKJC.

Michael Cox’s HK Six-up: Weight A Minute! Purton To Miss Next Start On Aethero.

Michael Cox




John Moore is looking for another jockey for Aethero and Zac Purton’s sprint choices become a little simpler after the trainer and jockey were informed that Hong Kong racing’s new superstar will carry a featherweight of 113-pounds in next month’s Group 2 Jockey Club Sprint.

Aethero put the Group 1 Hong Kong Sprint back on the agenda with a record-breaking straight track win last Saturday and Moore had scheduled next month’s international lead-up as the three-year-old’s next start.

Even though Joao Moreira rode Aethero on Saturday after Purton fulfilled his prior booking on Voyage Warrior, Moore had given Purton first option on the ride going forward – but that was with the misunderstanding that Aethero would be assigned 122-pounds in the race.


Aethero was brilliant winning the Class 2 over 1000m at Sha Tin under Joao Moreira. Photo by HKJC.


The conditions of the Group 2 are based off the weight-for-age scale, with a five-pound allowance given to horses that haven’t won a Group 1 since November 2018.

Aethero’s allocated 118 drops to 113, meaning he gets 10-pounds from most of the field and gets a whopping 15-pounds from Beat The Clock and Mr Stunning, who will both be first-up in the race.

The conditions of the Group 2 Jockey Club Sprint, Aethero’s next target race.


The lightest Purton has ridden in the last three years is 119-pounds, putting him well out of range, and after receiving clarification of the race conditions, Moore sounded out the lightweight Moreira for the ride.

So now the ball appears to be in Moreira’s court, with the upcoming trials of Beat The Clock, on whom he has won two Group 1s, crucial.

Purton is still spoilt for choice when it comes to sprint options however with Regency Legend and Mr Stunning offered, and Pakistan Star due to run in Sunday’s Group 2 Premier Bowl.


Aethero a miler? Not yet says Moore

On Aethero, trainer John Moore believes “Able Friend 2.0” will “need more ground in time”, just like the trainer’s former star miler, but it isn’t just a potential clash with stablemate Beauty Generation that has convinced him to contain the big strider to sprints.

“Yes I think Aethero’s future is over further and of course we don’t want him racing against Beauty Generation yet,” Moore said.

But what if there was no Beauty Generation on the scene though, would Moore still be as determined to keep the youngster to sprinting?

“I think so, and I do think that is what is best for him at the moment, I don’t think he is ready for a mile just yet,” he said.

Despite the dominant display on Saturday, which earned the chestnut 13 ratings points, Aethero looked like a baby deer on roller skates as he struggled to keep pace with rivals through the first part of the race.

That early speed will again be present when Aethero steps up to 1200m, a distance that saw a disastrous defeat as favourite two starts ago, this time against better quality horses, but Moore is unconcerned.

“You saw what he can do when he settles into his rhythm and starts striding out, he is a work in progress and learning what he is doing,” he said. “I think he looks the type that will handle whatever we throw at him.”


Magic Man performing for everyone

Joao Moreira said he was determined to share the love when it came to riding commitments this term and he has been true to his word during an early season purple patch of form.

Moreira has stolen a six-win break on Zac Purton after 10 meetings and his success has been for an impressive range of different trainers, including Saturday’s five-win haul coming courtesy of five different stables.

The Brazilian’s 23 wins have been for 14 of the 22 trainers and on Wednesday night he gets the chance to add four more to the list. David Hall, Me Tsui, Michael Chang and the so-far winless David Ferraris all send the Magic Man out on top chances.


Joao Moreira has been winning for a wide range of trainers this season. Photo by HKJC.


“That is a good sign, that I have been riding for many trainers, and it shows I am trying to get winners anywhere I can get,” said Moreira, identifying Xiang Bai Qi, for Ferraris, as his best ride of seven on the night.

“I think he will be winning,” was Moreira’s simple assessment.


Hong Kong’s other wealth gap

Life at the bottom of the jockeys’ championship can be a lonely place but at least those with zero wins on the board after 10 meetings have plenty of company this season.

The stark inequity of the jockeys’ championship is highlighted by the fact that while the top-three jockeys – Joao Moreira, Zac Purton and Karis Teetan – have won 52 of the 96 races this season, there are still five active riders with no wins so far.

Neil Callan, Umberto Rispoli, Lyle Hewitson, Ben So and Alex Lai have had a combined 233 rides for no success.

Neil Callan winning the 2015 Group 1 QEII Cup on Blazing Speed. Photo by HKJC.


For Callan, a nine-season veteran, it is a situation he is confident he can climb out of.

“I won’t let it get to me psychologically, and that is the key, you’ve just got to stay positive and keep chipping away,” he said.

“It is a bit frustrating, there are only a three or four chances in each race, and two of them go to Zac and Joao, but it also only takes one winner to turn things all around.”


More give, quick

Faster doesn’t necessarily mean harder when it comes to Sha Tin’s turf judging by the recent record-breaking times on the surface.

After track records were broken at the last two Sha Tin meetings, some trainers – obviously those of beaten runners – complained about what they assumed was a firm surface.

Published track firmness figures don’t back the claim though, and in fact there has been a consistent downward trend in track firmness, and an increase in track moisture, over the past five years.

So why the apparent illogical correlation between more give and faster times? One suggestion offered by Jockey Club track manager Stephen Higgins was that ” The increased cushion, grass cover and moisture content may encourage horses to stretch and quicken.”


Layin’ down the Lor

Frankie Lor has had a strong start to his third season and he is confident it will continue at Happy valley on Wednesday night when Looking Good and Heavenly Thought take suitable steps up in trip.

Lor was particularly bullish about the chances of Looking Good second-up.

“This is his best trip and he has the fitness now,” the trainer said.

Lor admitted he is now wary about ex-Darren Weir trainees after watching Heavenly Thought struggle through last season.

“He would follow the pace and then just drop out,” Lor said. “But I was happy with the last run, now he gets a lightweight and steps up to what is his best distance.”

Lor’s Group 1 winner Glorious Forever returns over 1600m this Sunday against Beauty Generation in the G2 Sha Tin Trophy.

“Obviously this is too short for him and Beauty Generation is there, but he is looking good and this should set him up nicely for November 17,” Lor said, referring to the Group 2 Jockey Club Cup over the horse’s pet distance of 2000m.



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