Cruz makes most of opportunities
TONY Cruz produced a perfectly-timed, immaculately-executed double at shivery Sha Tin yesterday to give desperately needed impetus to his challenge for the jockeys' championship.
Since his split with brother Derek, rides for the internationally-known local idol have been relatively sparse but he showed afresh yesterday just what he can do with the right material.
Cruz scored with Miss Piggy (5-2 favourite) in the second event and made all on favourite Namjong (2-1) in the seventh event.
Having patched up earlier differences with old pal Wong Tang-ping, Cruz is now riding an increasing number from the stable and owners there who watched his perfect ride on Miss Piggy are likely to be reaching for his telephone number.
Miss Piggy scored by the minimum margin from Freedom Reigns (5-1) and it was only the fierce determination of Cruz in the finish that saw the four-year-old home.
He also had the horse perfectly placed in the run and the English import was certainly suited by the 2,200-metre trip.
Cruz said: ''I think I was a bit lucky because we were able to settle fairly well and it was a case of being in the right place at the right time.
''He's only a horse but he was suited by the distance and I think he will get farther.'' Freedom Reigns ran a cracking race for Nigel Tiley, back in action after a bout of the 'flu, and will surely get away with one over just a little longer than this.
Royal Class (4-1) was also involved in the hectic finish but may have weakened just slightly when the crunch really came. He ran a respectable third but there was no joy for the supporters of Cash Bonus (5-1) who beat only one home and did not see out thetrip.
Cruz has no problems at all with Namjong who broke cleanly from the inside draw and was then settled as Speedy Good (20-1) quickly assumed command. Ridden by visiting apprentice Mickey Fenton, Speedy Good cleared away to a four-length lead but found nothing on straightening and Cruz was able to cruise upsides and simply take over.
Namjong was trainer Peter Ng Bik-kuen's 16th winner of the season and set a personal best for the popular handler who has never gone better.
Namjong won by four lengths from topweight Winsome Treasure (7-1) who just edged out Top News (7-2) right on the line with Good Health (60-1) coming home well for fourth.
Cruz said: ''It was a pleasure to ride him as he came out cleanly and then I was able to take the sit behind the other one.
''It was also a really good win for Peter and he had the horse turned out perfectly. There was never a real doubt at any stage that he was going to win.'' Namjong will undoubtedly win again and Winsome Treasure could get away with a race in this grade but over longer.
Top News put in a solid run for South African Felix Coetzee and looked briefly as if he might challenge for the major money half way down the straight. But Cruz shook the winner up and he was quickly away.
Top News then looked the only real quinella hope until Johnny K. S. Ho got to work on Winsome Treasure and came home too strongly.
Top Star (25-1) finished fifth and may go on from the run but Big Apple (5-1) again disappointed.
Having got away with a race early in the season, Big Apple looked a potential improver but there seemed no excuses for this limp show and he may be no better than his present mark.
But it was a day for Cruz to remember.
In a glittering career he has chalked up more doubles and trebles than he can remember but there was no doubting his pleasure of this one yesterday.
''That was definitely needed. It could not have come at a better time and I am really delighted about it.
''I have been getting a lot of support again in the last week or so and it is good to repay it with wins like this,'' he said.