Beauty Generation’s Ghosts of the Past and Specters of the Future

Two-time Horse of the Year Beauty Generation may only be running against past and possible future occurrences.

Updated: Jan. 21, 2020 • 4:30 PM ET

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Beauty Generation is no stranger to Hong Kong's Sha Tin Racecourse.

Often when thoroughbreds put their hoofs on a track of any surface, they’re running against ghosts of the past and specters of the future. At least, that is what we think.

Once that horse wins or even hits the board, the expectations for the next race grow exponentially. Once those victories come, the pressure builds for the connections. And penultimately, once the money seems like low-hanging fruit, dreams of glory pervade. Horse racing is still a business, they would say.

I would think that when we are talking about high-level stakes races, the odds, the worries, the hopes and dreams grow exponentially. Legacies are evidently on the line.

When a thoroughbred is on a meteoric trajectory, there’s nothing more intoxicating, nor anything as special. The media is abuzz — the betting public is willing to hand over wads of cash to respective pools — then, if a prize-winning mount garners enough attention, the breeding rights, if possible, become even more valuable.

Conversely, the minute that a horse falters, or the moment professional handicappers cannot throw out the last race, it’s over. That honeymoon, that period of ecstasy, is done. And then, a new period of doubt, of want and practiced disappointment moves in.

It does not matter how many races are won, once the “failed as favorite last time out” is uttered, humans act like it’s over. Odds increase, and that once powerful colt or mare is tagged with nothing short of the famous phrase, “what have you done for me lately.”

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Rocketing thoroughbreds that reach the stratosphere of fame and win regularly for a year or multiple years can be something that becomes tiresome. Turf writers sow the seeds of want after a loss by using phrases like “his rival grabbed the baton,” or “the king has been dethroned.” Metaphors in sports are ubiquitous, of course, and it seems that many like to prepare everyone for the idea that this animal is fallible.

Never was an example of this phenomenon more present than this past week. The international press that covers thoroughbred racing was particularly focused on Sunday’s running of the Group 1 Stewards’ Cup at Sha Tin’s course in Hong Kong. Most of the chatter concerned two-time Horse of the Year, Beauty Generation. This powerful turf miler did not gain those honors lightly.

Over the past several years there has been no horse as dominant at any distance than the John Moore-trained, New Zealand-bred gelding, other than maybe Australia’s Winx. Articles and Tweets flowed with regularity and questioned whether the 7-year-old Beauty would be able to pull off a win. After all, as they mentioned ad nauseum, this horse came in third in its last two races, so the prospects were circumspect at best. Plus, he was going up against the younger upstart, Waikuku, who bested him back in November in a Group 2 and was hoping to win his first Group 1.

Beauty Generation’s camp did what many teams do leading up to a big game or event. They talked the proverbial “smack” with Beauty’s exercise rider issuing hashtags up like he was loading a trebuchet outside Sha Tin. This was all meant to generate bulletin board material, of course. Yet, instead of going about their business, this only fed the story and odds that Beauty would not be able to measure up.

And then came the pronouncement.

The connections set out some bait for the race by telling everyone that if Beauty Generation won, it would make the likelihood of a trip to Dubai a reality. Nothing more tempting than a juicy promise!

The racing community loves to see a thoroughbred that runs locally “ship” to other venues and race against other competition. There’s no bigger stage than Dubai World Cup Day, as the Japanese-bred champion filly Almond Eye proved last year when she shipped in and won the turf mile.

This isn’t new to horse racing. It happened as far back as the 19th century and was a theme in the sport from Seabiscuit all the way through Enable. Recently, Winx’s team received widespread criticism for never traveling outside Australia, even though there were repeated invitations from the U.S., Britain and the UAE.

As for Beauty Generation, what may be driving this desire for more is likely his owner, Patrick Kwok Ho Chuen. The son of one of the most prominent Hong Kong families that built a powerful cosmetics empire called Sa Sa, the younger Kwok wants to ship, but has been overruled by his folks.

Could patriarchal authority trump decision-making when it comes to the Kwok’s horses?

One would think that winning 10 races in a row against some of the best competition that East Asia has to offer would be reason enough to be satisfied. Hasn’t Beauty Generation, who at 7-years-old has amassed a booty of £9,233,060.00, accomplished enough? Is more required?

I think what it comes down to for his connections are those ghosts of the past. They have a way, if we let them, of haunting us. His trainer, John Moore, seemed to believe that if he didn’t get the chance to ship Beauty abroad, the choice would be a ghost haunting his office like Nearly-Headless-Nick of Harry Potter fame.

Likewise, the specter of the future tugs constantly at the elbow, portending things that may come to pass. We call them what ifs: things that may not happen if we don’t make the right decision. Clearly, Patrick Kwok Ho Chuen is overly concerned with the choice to ship or not to ship, as he attempts to forge his own path away from his parents’ long shadow.

For the record, Beauty Generation did not win the Stewards’ Cup. He was loose on the lead but could not hold it, as Waikuku swept past him with a furlong left.

Maybe it was the cheekpieces? Maybe it was the way the turf set up? Maybe it was…

Enough! Enjoy it while it lasts!

What we need to remember when it comes to Beauty Generation’s career is not about the ghosts or the specters, but rather about his legacy. He gave us much to cheer about. For however long, being the best turf miler in the world isn’t an easy moniker to grasp.

We would do well to recall that there is always someone faster or better prepared. In the end, to quote the movie “Patton” starring George C. Scott, “All time is fleeting" — especially for a thoroughbred.