Via David Morgan, Hong Kong Jockey Club
Aethero turned a match into a procession when lowering the great Sacred Kingdom’s 12-year 1000-metre track record at Sha Tin this afternoon, Saturday, 12 October.
“He’s a star. He’s a star!” were the first words a beaming Joao Moreira said to trainer John Moore when returning triumphant on Hong Kong’s most exciting prospect.
“He’s going straight to the moon,” the Brazilian added after weighing in.
Aethero (122lb) brushed aside fellow rising star Voyage Warrior (125lb), the only other horse in the past decade to have dipped below 55 seconds, as he clocked a sizzling 54.69s, one click inside Sacred Kingdom’s old mark of 54.70s.
“Voyage Warrior is no slouch, so what Aethero did today, breaking the record – and there’s not a great tail-wind here – shows what I’ve been saying about him: I believe he has the makings to be a superstar,” Moore said.
The trainer is no stranger to handling horses in that bracket: Beauty Generation, Viva Pataca and Able Friend have all reached those heights under the Australian’s care.
Moreira was the outstanding Able Friend’s regular partner and was willing to make a comparison.
“Ability-wise, there’s a little bit of Able Friend about him,” he said of the Australian-bred three-year-old. “What a classy horse.”
Moore, too, acknowledged the obvious similarities between the two big chestnuts, but also one difference.
“He’s not as advanced as Able Friend was at the same age. This fellow is still a little goofy, as against Able Friend at the same age, but he’ll get a mile for sure,” the trainer said.
Aethero, a half-brother to G2-winning sprinter Classique Legend, was unable to match the early pace of Voyage Warrior and Multimillion, with Moreira needing to nudge his mount along to race within striking range of that blitzing pair. But, as the race developed, the leaders felt the pinch and Aethero quickened on by to a dominant win.
“He was in the position where he would have every chance because I knew there was a fight up front and they were not as relaxed as my horse was behind them,” the rider said.
“He wasn’t travelling very keen, I had to niggle him for a couple of furlongs but
when I put him under pressure and gave him a tap on the shoulder, just a touch, I could feel him pick up right away and I had to hold him back because that was probably a little bit too early. At the 350 (metres) I had to let him go and he just ran away.
“He’s got everything in him and he’s on the way to the Group levels,” he added.
The G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) is the plan via one more run in the G2 Jockey Club Sprint (1200m) next month. But Moore is conscious that there is some work to do after the gelding’s defeat over 1200m last month, a race in which the son of Sebring over-raced when positioned in among horses.
“He’s still a work in progress,” Moore reminded all within earshot. “He got unbalanced in the 1200 (metres) last time, he wasn’t comfortable in that sort of situation so with my riding boys I’ve got to do a lot of work with him amongst other horses to get him savvy, to be able to be competitive in the Group 2 and if he makes the Hong Kong Sprint.
“I’ve been speaking to Romain (Clavreul), my work rider, and we’re going to put two horses in front of him, his work is going to be in between – we’ll do a lot of different things with him to get him used to being amongst horses. I’ll try to get him as comfy as I can.”
Champion jockey Zac Purton had ridden Aethero in each of his four prior races for three wins but was aboard Voyage Warrior this time.
“Zac’s got the ride unless he goes for something else,” Moore said. “Zac always had the ride but he had the booking with Voyage Warrior five or six weeks out so Zac will go back on but it’s a nice substitute to have Joao waiting in the sidelines.”
Aethero put two and a half lengths and more on his 13 rivals in the Class 2 Wo Tik Handicap, with Big Time Baby (125lb) second and stablemate Thanks Forever (125lb) third.