Beauty Only lands second Chairman's Trophy
Jockey Neil Callan's faith in old warrior's top-level capability pays off
Beauty Only revisited past glories at Sha Tin Racecourse on Sunday afternoon, returning to form with a rattling late run to win an action-packed edition of the Group 2 Chairman's Trophy over 1,600m.
"He was the horse of old there," said jockey Neil Callan, after his old ally had clocked a swift 22.14sec for the final 400m. The winning time was 1min 32.84sec, making it the second-fastest mile run at Sha Tin.
"I've always thought this horse was a super star," said trainer Tony Cruz.
"His last run was poor but he's a fast-ground horse and he needs a fast-run race, that's what he got today, and he's run three seconds faster than last time, so what does that say?"
The seven-year-old surged to a neck win over Western Express, sealing his second Chairman's Trophy under Callan, two years after the first.
The hulking grey Pingwu Spark took third, with Pakistan Star storming from the tail to finish a remarkable fourth.
Sunday's win was Beauty Only's first since a career-peak success in the December 2016 Group 1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile.
Since rounding off last term with a fine second in the Group 1 Champions Mile and a close sixth in Japan's Group 1 Yasuda Kinen over 1,600m, the white-faced bay had failed to make the frame in eight races this campaign. There was even talk of pulling the plug on the Champion Miler's career.
"Tony said to me that the owners were thinking about retiring him and I said 'please, don't,' because I was sure he could win another top-level one this season, for sure," said Callan.
The Irishman was Beauty Only's sole partner through the Holy Roman Emperor gelding's first season, which brought a famous win in the 2015 Hong Kong Classic Mile.
But through a 15-run stretch from the May 2016 Group 1 Champions Mile until this January's Group 1 Stewards' Cup, Callan was absent from the Kwok family galloper's saddle.
"When I got back on him three runs ago, I thought he ran well," said Callan. "I looked back at the sectionals and, considering how slowly they went, his final sectional was 22.72sec.
" He was running those sections when he was winning those Group 1s previously, so I knew he still had something in him if the race was run to suit."
Sunday afternoon's field of only nine rivals gave Callan confidence.
"I just knew, with today's smaller field, he could be two lengths closer by default and still run the same sections, so it was perfect for him," he said.
Beauty Only's stablemate, Time Warp, won the frenetic early rush to secure the lead and took the field through strong splits. Beauty Only settled towards the tail, shifted wide at the 400m mark and began his surge to the wire.
Helene Paragon quickened to the fore with 350m to race but he, in turn, was swarmed at the 200m as Beauty Generation, Pingwu Spark, Western Express and Beauty Only made their plays. The last-named's momentum carried him clear.
"I knew when I came to the corner," said Callan. "The track was running fast, so I knew I could sit and wait. And I waited and waited and waited until they straightened up and then as soon as I pulled him out I knew he was going to go past them all.
"He just needed the race run like it's been run today and he's delivered the goods. I'm just glad to get back on him."
Cruz is looking forward to the possibility of more big days with Beauty Only.
"I'm going to meet with the owners now," he said. "We keep going. He's still ready to run."
Time Warp, the 3.1 favourite, faded to finish last of 10.
The Group 2 print Cup over 1,200m was taken by the John Size-trained Beat The Clock.
Jockey Joao Moreira declared that Beat The Clock was potentially "the best sprinter" in Hong Kong after the galloper scored his first Group victory with a strong last-to-first win over last December's Group 1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint hero Mr Stunning. - HKJC