By Declan Schuster, HKJC
Beauty Generation, one of the greatest champions in the history of Hong Kong horse racing, has retired.
Twice crowned Hong Kong’s Horse of the Year, the New Zealand-bred gelding was also named Champion Miler a record three times. Beauty Generation ends his career with 18 Hong Kong wins from 34 starts and prize-money earnings of HK$106,233,750, making him the highest-ever earner in Hong Kong history.
Trained by John Moore for each of his 18 wins (in Hong Kong) – a record he shares with Silent Witness and Super Win – the brilliant son of Road To Rock achieved eight Group 1 triumphs, as well as five Group 2 victories and three Group 3s.
Beauty Generation holds two course records at Sha Tin Racecourse, 1600m and 2200m, and at one stage he held the fastest 1400m time. He also owns the single season wins record, an unbeaten eight successes through his 2018/19 campaign.
“Any horse who can go from 1400m to 2200m and break a track record must have a lot of ability because champions like him can do it over short and long,” Moore said.
A superstar with a high cruising speed, his trademark on-pace style saw him simply run his rivals into the ground. At his peak he achieved the equal highest international rating for a Hong Kong horse, joint at 127 along with Able Friend on the LONGINES World’s Best Racehorse Rankings. He was allotted that mark in both 2018 and 2019 and was honoured as the world’s leading specialist miler in both years.
“His toughness, his fighting spirit but he was a very sound horse – I don’t even remember times when I had to go in with the vet, he was such a sound champion and that was one of his biggest assets – it held him in good stead throughout his career,” Moore said.
Beauty Generation will be retired to Living Legends in Melbourne, Australia.
Champion status and the aura of invincibility
Beauty Generation’s second G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile success in 2018 saw the then six-year-old reach a world peak, an international rating of 127 after Zac Purton guided him to an imperious three-length success against an all-star cast of international G1 winners from Japan, Great Britain, Australia and Hong Kong.
“He just made a mockery of that field in the 2018 Hong Kong Mile, Vivlos was a Group 1 winner in Dubai and it just showed how good Beauty Generation was on his day – he was just unbeatable,” Moore said.
Purton is one of three jockeys to have paired with the champ in Hong Kong and was in the plate for 15 of his wins, including his astonishing second Hong Kong Mile victory.
“He’s the special one really, every jockey hopes that a horse like him comes along in their career and luckily for me he has and I’ve enjoyed the ride – he was a wonderful horse,” Purton said.
The four-time champion jockey paired with Beauty Generation for all but three of his Hong Kong wins, and is in agreement with Moore.
“There’s many highlights but if I had to pick one, I’d say it was his 2018 Hong Kong Mile win, he drew a wide gate, they made him work into the first corner and it was a very strong field – Vivlos, as well as a number of other runners were in the race and he won by three lengths eased down.”
“He smashed them, you don’t see horses beat a quality field in the manner that he did, so for me that was his best performance,” Purton said.
Such was Beauty Generation’s indomitability at his peak, he started at 1.5 or shorter for nine consecutive runs between November 2018 and November 2019, a period which included four of his G1 scores.
“His greatest asset was his ability to bully the field and bash them up the way he did, he used to carve out great sectionals and just sustain that gallop, and it was a special feeling when you were riding him.
“When he was at his best, I just felt like he was invincible – I used to love walking to the races turning up knowing I had him to ride, I just let him do his thing it was great – I certainly enjoyed it,” Purton said.
New Zealand, Australia and then Hong Kong
Beauty Generation was born on 27 September, 2012 at Highden Stud in Palmerston North on New Zealand’s North Island, he arrived as a foal, bay in colour with four white socks and a white blaze, by Road to Rock out of Stylish Bel.
He was sold through the 2014 New Zealand Bloodstock Select Yearling Sale for NZ$60,000 and after being broken in at Wellfield Lodge, Beauty Generation, then known as Montaigne, was sent to race in Australia under the care of trainer Anthony Cummings.
“He surprised me, his form with Anthony Cummings in Australia was very good but his pedigree wasn’t blue blood although the talent was there – George (Moore) bought very well,” Moore said.
On account of Moore Bloodstock and chosen by George Moore – John’s son – the new recruit shipped to Hong Kong to race in the prominent pink and black silks of the Kwok family, owned by son Patrick.
“I thought Beauty Only (2016 Hong Kong Mile winner) was very good but then Beauty Generation came along and it was just so special for the family – we love horse racing,” said Patrick Kwok.
Beauty Generation was competitive against Australia’s top three-year-olds at the time, logging a runner-up effort to dual G1 winner Tarzino in the 2016 G1 Rosehill Guineas (2000m).
“Beauty Generation was targeted to the Hong Kong Derby initially but as time went on, he told us what the more appropriate distance was so we brought him back in trip,” Moore said.
He would go on to own the mile at Sha Tin Racecourse, the champ simply dominated it, and he also had no issue dipping down to 1400m, proving his versatility with back-to-back G1 Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup victories.
“When I looked at his physique, I thought he was a powerful individual and I thought we have to look at him going around a mile and that just took him to the next level.
“When we just concentrated on the 1400m to the mile – it was the telling point with respect to the champion that he leaves us as – with icon status,” Moore said.
Zac Purton paired with Beauty Generation for the entirety of his first campaign, which culminated with a weakening eighth in the 2017 G3 Queen Mother Memorial Cup (2400m).
“I never did [think he could be that good], he caught me out a little bit, I said to the owners early on that I didn’t even think he was a Group horse, he was struggling in class races and restricted races.
“But like a lot of horses in Hong Kong it just takes them a little bit of time to adapt and to acclimatise,” Purton said.
Acclimatise he did, and four runs later in his second campaign, following a first-up G3 and second-up G2 success he scored his first win at the top-level in the 2017 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile under local ace Derek Leung.
“I thought he had a chance – I knew his fitness was good, he was very consistent and he was still improving at that stage,” Leung said.
“I tried to lead softly and he did what I wanted him to do and won the race – it was a special moment with the crowd – I owe a big thank you to the trainer and owner for their support,” Leung added.
Arrogance, teamwork, and a strong bond
Beauty Generation’s brilliance came with quirks and eccentricities; a love for Polo Mints and carrots, as well as a fiery attitude or rather an arrogance, which his mafoos (stable assistants) and work riders felt the brunt of firsthand.
“Before I became his mafoo I already knew that he liked to bite people, so I was a bit scared at the very beginning, but I figured out how to take care of him and his temperament did improve as he got older,” said mafoo Lau Wai Kit.
“His box manners were terrible, I think they’re going to struggle a little bit in Australia with him for the first few weeks, he bites, kicks and rears up – it’s his home, you don’t go in his home,” said regular work rider Romain Clavreul.
The trio was a comforting sight at Sha Tin trackwork every morning and a formidable team, Lau was to his side, while Clavreul sat calmly atop the cocksure bay.
But along with John Moore and big-race pilot Zac Purton, the two played an important role in Beauty Generation’s day-to-day training, well-being, and race day excellence.
“I have been very lucky to take care of him, just by sheer luck I received the chance to be his mafoo in his second season in Hong Kong, that was when he started to shine in the Hong Kong racing circle,” said Lau.
“His victory in the 2017 Hong Kong Mile under Derek Leung brought me the most emotional and unforgettable moment, tears almost came out on that occasion.
“It was the most glorious moment for me in my career of taking care of horses after doing so for so many years,” he added.
Clavreul remains besotted with the eight-time Group 1 winner. The Frenchman developed a strong bond with the sometimes vicious and vivacious galloper who he describes as his ‘best friend’.
“He’s been a bit like my best friend for the last three years – he’s been life changing, I feel very blessed and lucky to have been able to ride a horse like him – he was definitely something special and I’m going to miss him a lot,” Clavreul said.
The sentiment was shared by Lau, who will bid his friend goodbye after over three years by his side.
“He was a bit naughty in the stables, but he was a different horse when he stepped onto the track to race. He was very settled on race day and very professional – he knew what to do on race day,” said Lau.
They worked well together, Beauty Generation’s record speaks for itself and seven-time champion trainer John Moore lauded his team’s tireless efforts behind the scenes.
“With my wife, we put together the stable and the staff to reach a team that I would call as good as it gets in Hong Kong – that was a key factor in getting these horses, like Beauty Generation to the level that they got to,” said Moore.
The final campaigns
Beauty Generation’s form slipped after his 10-win streak came to an end, the champ who was unbeaten for over 18 months had his colours lowered in the 2019 G2 Oriental Watch Sha Tin Trophy (1600m), the first of four consecutive defeats.
His winning spark reignited with a third consecutive G1 Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup success, but his aura of invincibility had waned and his sheer brilliance was missing.
He entered his final campaign with a new handler following the mandatory retirement of John Moore, joining the stable of dual Hong Kong champion trainer David Hayes, who returned to Hong Kong this season following a 15-year hiatus.
“He’s an all-time great of Hong Kong, he ran a competitive race on the weekend but with Golden Sixty around, everywhere he goes he probably can’t beat him – maybe in his heyday he could have but at this stage of his career he certainly can’t,” Hayes said.
The announcement to retire the champ was made by Patrick Kwok on Sunday, 13 December following his fifth-placed effort to Golden Sixty in the Hong Kong Mile.
“He travelled beautifully, and he gave us a real thrill and then at about the 200m mark he was found a little bit wanting.”
“The owners love the horse and don’t like seeing him getting beaten, so they made the decision to retire him to Living Legends where he will be respected and looked after and admired by a lot of people – it’s an appropriate place,” Hayes said.
Dr. Andrew Clarke, Living Legends Chief Executive Officer, said: “It’s just wonderful news, Beauty Generation is one of the all-time greats, he’s the equal highest rated horse from Hong Kong and he’s the all-time money winner.”
Beauty Generation joins the likes of Silent Witness, Good Ba Ba, Bullish Luck, Designs On Rome, Beauty Only, California Memory, Lucky Nine, Super Jockey and Mr Stunning as stars of Hong Kong who reside at Living Legends in Melbourne, Australia.
“It’s often the kangaroos that the Hong Kong horses take a day or two to get used to – kangaroos do all sorts of things that horses don’t like,” Clarke said.
Beauty Generation’s record-setting career is folklore, he scaled unimaginable heights, produced an invincible season and leaves the track with the most earnings in Hong Kong racing history.
And throughout it all, with mounting pressure and expectations aboard Hong Kong’s champion horse, Purton remained unperturbed, holding an exceptional amount of faith in the bay’s ability and will to win.
“Funnily, I never at any stage felt like I was ever under any pressure with him, the more wins they get obviously the more people expect them to keep winning and generally more pressure comes with that,” Purton said.
Purton is known for his ice-cold temperament in the saddle, the Australian ace is a four-time champion of Hong Kong with more than 1200 wins, second to only Douglas Whyte.
“I just felt he was so much better than the rest of the field so I didn’t feel like I had anything to worry about – that way I was able to enjoy it and I suppose that’s probably the best part of it.
“What I started to notice most was the attention that he would get around the parade ring, it got to the stage where crowds were lining the parade ring with their cameras out taking photos and videos of him and that’s when you start to realise how much attention he has – but not just from racegoers but from the general public as well,” Purton said.
“Coming back after the race there was just a feeling of satisfaction, there was never a feeling of relief because I was always so confident that he was going to win,” he added.
Beauty Generation was the horse of a lifetime for Purton and he will always be an icon of Hong Kong, he captured the hearts and minds of racegoers who flocked to catch a glimpse, like all champions do.