March 2, 2024

Time Warp speeds to new course record in Hong Kong Gold Cup

Time Warp wired the Hong Kong Gold Cup while bettering the course record long held by Jim and Tonic (Photo courtesy Hong Kong Jockey Club)

The front-running winner of the Hong Kong Cup (G1) on the December 10 International Races program, Time Warp put up an even stronger performance to wire Sunday’s Hong Kong Gold Cup (G1) in Sha Tin record time over the same course and distance.

The Tony Cruz trainee easily secured the early lead through an opening 400 meters (about a quarter-mile) in :25.68, but his task was suddenly complicated when Helene Charisma hustled up to pester him. By the time the field swung into the backstretch, it was obvious that Time Warp wouldn’t be allowed to get away with comfortable fractions again. The 2-1 second choice picked up the tempo from there, reeling off testing splits of :23.35, :23.39, and :23.32 to maintain command for jockey Zac Purton.

Meanwhile, the race was setting up beautifully for defending champion and 9-5 favorite Werther, Helene Charisma’s stablemate, who was well placed in fifth before rolling up to challenge turning for home. Indeed, as Werther threw down the gauntlet and headed Time Warp in the stretch, the early work by Helene Charisma appeared to pay off.

But Time Warp responded, regaining the advantage to defeat Werther by a half-length. Despite the different race shape, the top two duplicated the exacta from December’s Hong Kong Cup.

Werther’s connections – trainer John Moore and jockey Hugh Bowman – were left wondering what might have been when the favorite returned bleeding from both nostrils. That compromised him as the battle reached its climax.

Still, Time Warp deserves the glory for his sparkling final time of 1:59.97 that broke Jim and Tonic’s nearly 20-year-old course record. That grand old stager had set the mark of 2:00.10 for about 1 1/4 miles in the 1999 QE II Cup.

“That was quite some performance, wasn’t it?” Purton told the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s David Morgan. “We’ve been racing here for a long time now and there’s been a lot of good horses grace this track so it’s a credit to the horse.”

“You don’t want as much pressure as he had today, every time I thought I could back the speed off a little bit more and take a breather they kept going at him and kept making him do it, which I thought may happen. Thankfully he still came out on top.”

Cruz indicated that the April 29 renewal of the QE II Cup (G1) is the main aim for Time Warp, who will skip his hitherto possible Dubai World Cup night engagements.

“I expected him to win,” Cruz said of the British-bred son of Archipenko. “This time they put the pressure on, they pushed the pace. I still believe he can go further even. I think he’s a horse that will prove he can win the QEII Cup.

“He’ll stay back for the rest of the Hong Kong races – maybe next year we’ll go places with him. I don’t want to gamble with the chance that he goes to Dubai and doesn’t feel 100 percent when he comes back to run those races in Hong Kong. I’m going to play safe.”

Considering how taxing this effort may have been, it’s probably for the best that Time Warp will remain home.

Werther (second from left) bled in his gallant second (Photo courtesy Hong Kong Jockey Club)

Werther is grounded thanks to his bleeding episode, putting him out of action for three months.

“He did (put his head in front),” Bowman said, “but I think if he was at his best he would have put a margin on the winner.

“They’ve run good time but I know the horse and he just wasn’t quite himself today. I make no excuses, the winner did it all, so take nothing away from him, but I think my guy wasn’t quite himself.”

Moore made similar points.

“Hugh got a head in front, and he said he thought he was going to sustain it and kick a little more,” the trainer said, “and then we’ve seen that the horse has bled, so that’s probably the reason why.”

Seasons Bloom stayed on well for a close third. The winner of the January 28 Stewards’ Cup (G1) over a metric mile last out (in which Time Warp was a poor-start 10th) thereby furnished evidence that he is indeed capable at this longer trip.

Pakistan Star, off since he pulled himself up on the backstretch in the June 25 Premier Plate (G3), showed a renewed willingness for the job with an encouraging fourth. Also trained by Cruz, the talented but mercurial type is on course for a rematch with Time Warp in the QE II Cup. Cruz’s Gold Mount closed from last for fifth, followed by Eagle Way, Dinozzo, Secret Weapon, and the tailed-off Helene Charisma.

Purton turned a Group 1 double, and Moore gained compensation, when Hong Kong Mile (G1) hero Beauty Generation prevailed in the co-featured Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup (G1). Thus as in the Gold Cup, the Hong Kong International Races form was upheld Sunday.

Beauty Generation, the nearly 4-1 third choice, was coming off a seventh in the Stewards’ Cup. He’d had to work harder early from post 13 that day, but drawn in post 7 here, while cutting back to about seven furlongs, helped him regain the winning thread.

Forcing pacesetter Peniaphobia before picking up the baton himself, Beauty Generation was accosted by 2-1 favorite Beat the Clock on his inside. But he dug in to score by a head while clocking 1:20.86.

“He was headed, but he waits for the other horses to come to him a little bit,” Purton said. “He gives a bit of a kick and then he just wanders. I think I have Joao (Moreira on Beat the Clock) to thank, though. He snuck up on my inside, quiet as a church mouse, but as he got on level terms, he roared at his horse – but my horse kicked!

“He’s definitely surprised us all at the level he’s got to, but I did say to John (Moore) last season that I thought he’d be a better horse next season. I think he’s proven that he’s a 1400-meter to 1600-meter horse, somewhere around that range just seems to suit him. He gets out, he makes all, he’s got that high cruising speed and he can kick.”

Beauty Generation added the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup to his Hong Kong Mile trophy (Photo courtesy Hong Kong Jockey Club)

Moore recalled how the New Zealand-bred, runner-up in the 2016 Rosehill Guineas (G1) under his former name of Montaigne, had arrived in Hong Kong as a Derby prospect.

“He’s very versatile, isn’t he?” his trainer said. “He was one of our Derby horses and that’s what we thought he’d be, but at the beginning of this season I approached (owner) Patrick (Kwok) and said, ‘I’m going to make a miler of him,’ and we did. We have put the speed into him and he’s kicked on, he’s come back to 1400 meters and he’s won today so I’ve been proven right – and I think Patrick is still scratching his head and wondering how we’ve done it.”

While his versatility could extend to the about nine-furlong Dubai Turf (G1) on World Cup night, Moore expects him to pursue a domestic campaign.

“He’s been (invited), but I’d have to speak to Patrick and his father about this horse and whether they want to travel or not,” he said. “That’s probably not a great chance, so he will probably have one run before the Champions Mile (G1), but he would be a good hope over the 1800 meters in Dubai.”

Beat the Clock would be intriguing if trainer John Size sets him for the Al Quoz Sprint (G1).

“He was beaten by a better horse this time,” Moreira said. “He’s an up-and-coming type, he ran really well and I was extremely happy with how he went. He just did a few things wrong, particularly in the last furlong, which cost him the win today, but if he improves, he will be one of the best sprinters next season.”

Fifty Fifty checked in third. Next came the Cruz duo of Giant Treasure and late-running Beauty Only. Defending champion Helene Paragon continued his off form in seventh, and Peniaphobia retreated to last of 11.