Is Beauty Generation vulnerable at Sha Tin on Tuesday? History says he faces a difficult task but certainly not an insurmountable one.
A 1,400m feature has been held at this meeting in some form since 2000 (it was originally called the National Day Cup before becoming the Celebration Cup, with the old moniker moving to the 1,000m sprint) and the top weights do not have a good record.
In 19 renewals, a horse carrying 133 pounds has won just three and they were all stars – Fairy King Prawn (2001), Ambitious Dragon (2011) and Beauty Generation (2018).
The handicap conditions favour horses down in the weights, with 11 winners carrying 121 pounds or less and seven of those were below 116.
The positive news for Beauty Generation supporters is that favourites have done well, saluting on nine occasions, and he is all but certain to jump at an odds-on quote.
The circumstances of this contest means it shapes up as arguably the toughest of the home campaign for John Moore’s superstar.
The distance is short of his absolute best, he hasn’t raced for more than five months – and has only had one tune-up trial – while he is giving 20 pounds to eight of his nine rivals (though it should be more as they are all out of the handicap).
That is a challenge, but his rating (137) and record suggest it is well within his capabilities.
Beauty Generation has won this event the past two years, first in 2017 when carrying the minimum of 113 pounds (and starting a now inconceivable $18) before backing up last year with the top weight, saluting by two-and-a-quarter lengths at $4.30.
This year, the race might not unfold perfectly for the champ, who typically prefers to dictate proceedings from the front, as Tony Cruz’s Ka Ying Star is likely to pour the pressure on and make use of his light weight.
The problem is finding the horse to beat him – it would make sense to look for a rising star like Waikuku as one who could fit that profile.
John Size’s Hong Kong Derby runner-up is undefeated in three starts over the course and distance and tuned up for this assignment with two trials, the most recent an impressive second to Pakistan Star.
Waikuku is probably better over further and on ratings he should be getting 29 pounds off Beauty Generation, but if there is going to be an upset, he appears the best-placed to do it.
If Beauty Generation can make it a hat-trick of wins in the Celebration Cup and show that he is still at his imposing best at seven, it is hard to see him being beaten in Hong Kong this season with a host of set weights races still to come.
The superstar prevailed in all eight of his starts last term to extend his winning streak to nine and Moore has said Beauty Generation will follow the same campaign – with the possibility of an overseas trip thrown in.
The owners are chasing Silent Witness’ streak of 17 straight wins and this is a considerable obstacle to navigate in that ambitious challenge.