Trainer John Size and jockey Joao Moreira spoke of vindication and feeling humbled in an unusually emotion-charged response to their win with Hong Kong's most consistent sprinter Beat The Clock in the LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) on Sunday at Sha Tin.
Moreira declared he would cherish the win “all my life” while Size wiped away a tear or two after the ever-reliable Beat The Clock beat stablemate Hot King Prawn with sprinting's would-be-king Aethero, the 1.5 favorite, the same margin back in third.
“There's no way I could be any happier. What a pleasure to be on top of two very nice horses, particularly this guy. He is such a good horse, so consistent, he tries his best always and being his rider is just unforgettable,” said Moreira, who'd earlier won the afternoon's first Group 1 on Glory Vase, said as he returned to scale on the 6.5 winner who's won nine races and not missed the first three in 23 starts.
The Brazilian had earlier won the afternoon's first G1 on Glory Vase in the LONGINES Hong Kong Vase (2400m).
He was even more effusive at the later post-race press conference. “When the gates opened he wasn't fast enough. He didn't settle where we wanted him to be which was a pair closer but once we were turning for home I could feel I had plenty in my hands and I realised he was coming to win the race with one furlong (200m) to go.
“This will be in the back of my mind all my life. I've been associated with this horse for quite some time. Some people were doubting how good he was and rating him second to other horses in the race. He went there to prove today he's the best sprinter in Hong Kong. And the best part of it is I don't think that's it, I think there's more to come from him,” Moreira said.
Size made repeated reference to the horse's character when asked about his remarkable consistency. He said: “It's just his character I guess, his will to win and fighting spirit; all the good things that good horses have, he has all those attributes. He helps himself a lot with his training. He saves his energy for raceday. I think he'll sleep for a week now. He used every ounce of energy in his body in today's effort and it's humbling to see a horse do that actually.
“He's a joy when he comes to the races, I can assure you of that. You're going to come home with a cheque no matter what; he's been been an absolute pleasure. He was extremely brave in the run today. He didn't look like he was going to win but we know with him he's just not done until the finishing line comes up,” he said.
Beat The Clock gave notice of what was to come when he won on debut at Sha Tin in November 2016 and the six-year-old son of Hinchinbrook now boasts three Group 1 wins.
“This was one of his best performances today, if not his best,” Size said, “and he will feel it. They're only flesh and blood no matter how good their character.
“It's very humbling to watch a horse like that. It's an amazing feeling. It's actually not much to do with me in the last 50 or 100 yards. We just keep them out of harm's way and get them to the races to do their best so it's an unusual feeling and hard to describe; someone who's more of an orator than me might be able to tell you.
“It's just natural to be emotional when a horse does something like this space. It humbles you, that is the best word I can think of. It means plenty to win here. It's always meaningful to perform well at international level in front of your home crowd.
“From the first day he trialled, he showed us he was a bit different and when he hit the track the sectional times he reeled off at the end of a sprint race showed his Group 1 potential and he's delivered, he's got the character and the mindset for it,” he said.
The win was the trainer's third HKIR success. “And eight seconds (before today), I haven't forgotten those,” he said.
Trainer John Moore did not despair at the defeat of Aethero. “He's a three-year-old, only got beaten a neck, so I'm very pleased with the run. He didn't win but was gallant in defeat. Zac (Purton) said that when he went for him at the 200 (metres), he was expecting something there – that they could kick away a bit but it wasn't there. He changed legs and that was the difference. He's definitely still an exciting horse.”
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