Cruz factor keeps punters on target
TONY Cruz is the jockey to keep firmly on your side at tonight's dreary all-weather meeting at Sha Tin. The multiple former champion jockey, going all out to notch a sixth title, can complete a first and last race double on Top News and Bounty with the latter looking exceptionally hard to beat. When you get a horse that excels on the dirt who can defy the attentions of the handicapper, it is time to pounce. This was seen time and time again on the old equitrack surface at Happy Valley. Bounty looks a potential specialist on the artificial surface - pity for him that there are only four meetings left before it is gone forever. Last time out he could have been named the winner a long way out, despite being somewhat slowly away and having to circle his rivals on the first bend to get to the front. Once there he put in a very dominant display to score eased down by 23/4 lengths, despite racing near the fence where the ground may not be so fast as a few off the rail. The explanation for this is simple.
Most of the main work is done on the all-weather surface that racing takes place on this evening. And most of the main work takes place near the rail so the ground is subject to more of a pounding and is probably a bit deeper. The all-weather surface at Sha Tin probably approximates to the former sand track at Happy Valley where it was always worthwhile to follow the outside barriers. Bounty is actually drawn next to the fence tonight, but given the way he led them a merry dance last time out, Cruz should be able to take up whatever position he likes through the run so this is one race where the barrier is not so vital. Indeed as a general rule, the outside barriers are likely to be much more of an advantage in the sprints than the races over a mile or further.
Jockey Club officials say they have prepared the track slightly differently to reduce the kickback at tonight's meeting, but that rule of outside barriers in the sprints, and horses with pace for all distances, is likely to pertain. Bear these principles closely in mind when having a punt. Back to Bounty and he has been raised 12 pounds in the ratings for that 23/4-length dismissal of Sweet Win. It is a considerable burden to overcome, but it is one which these all-weather freaks can surmount, especially as there was a further 33/4 lengths back to Fit For Royalty in third. The value in tonight's final event could well be Real Perfect who was previously with Bounty's trainer, Lam Hung-fie, but is now with Stephen Leung. He could start at good odds as he is ridden by the 10-pound claimer Alex K. S. Yu who has yet to grab the public's imagination.
However, Yu looked very good value for his claim when scoring on Link Treasure at the last meeting on the Sha Tin dirt and has impressed with his balance and awareness and ability to keep a horse together in the many trials he has ridden. What's more Leung has done really well with the horses he has taken over from other trainers and so often a stable change can revitalise these handicappers which have definite talent but have just become a little jaded. So expect a big run from Real Perfect, who has won on the Happy Valley equitrack, and at good odds to boot. Leung's stable jockey Gary Stevens has elected to partner Royal Pride for Geoff Lane and he, too, should give Bounty something to think about. Royal Pride is well treated on his best form of last season which was on the Happy Valley equitrack. But there is a slight question mark about him seeing out a strongly run mile.
The same applies to Picador, who is also in very good heart, having run really well when fourth to Foursome last time out in a race which is working out. Jogador is a specialist on the dirt who caught the eye last time out and now has Alan Munro taking over from Victor C. F. Chan. Munro has come in for a number of good rides from leading trainer John Moore of late and it would be no surprise to see Jogador bounce back to form. Gainsborough's Boy benefited from the first-time application of blinkers last time to run third, but has more on his plate this evening. Goldchin Champ can't be completely ruled out though the best he can probably hope for is third position.