Cruz set to trump rivals in opener
Deuce Of Hearts can continue the great recent run of racing legend Tony Cruz and his stable jockey, the demon Douglas Whyte in race one at Happy Valley tonight.
Cruz is a rare phenomenon - a brilliant jockey who has made the transition to being a brilliant trainer.
Usually, though of course not always, it is the battling jockey who had to make every winner pay as a rider in order to survive, who enjoys most success as a trainer.
Two recent examples of that from Britain are Dandy Nicholls who was out here with Alex Greaves for Ladies' Day and fellow English trainer Gary Moore.
Nicholls was a tough rather than talented northern jockey but is emerging as a superb trainer. Moore was a struggling jump jockey who endured so many falls riding bad horses at bad tracks that he has a body on him that under X-ray looks more like a set of Meccano. But boy can he train and he's already had a runner out here on International Day.
The likes of George Moore and Tony Cruz are the exceptions not the rule.
It took exceptional training by Cruz to get the thorough stayers Drawing Away and All Good to run so well first time out this season and his handling of his youngsters is also a pleasure to watch in the mornings.
Cruz gets his horses to a fit state without putting any undue pressure on them and that has been the case with Deuce Of Hearts who was unlucky to run up against such a smart Class Four performer as Billion Win last time out.
But he was far from disgraced and had the others very well beaten off and very well strung out.
That effort came over 1,400 metres and Deuce Of Hearts has always shaped as if he'd show his full potential from a mile up. He gets that mile tonight.
Tackling Happy Valley for the first time in such a competitive situation and against older horses is a worry. But Deuce Of Hearts showed enough speed to be up on the lead over 1,400 metres at Sha Tin last time and that should allow him once again to be prominent from barrier five and out of the trouble in running that bedevils so many races at the embattled city circuit.
Popular Acclaim and Winning Smart look the two main dangers in a good betting race. Popular Acclaim ran very green last time in the race won by Lucky Glory, when he didn't have the clearest of runs either, and is almost certain to have improved for the experience.
Trainer Ivan Allan has since trialled him at the Valley and he went well.
Winning Smart looked a touch unlucky on his most recent outing when only just failing to catch Fun And Smile over tonight's course and distance.
Smart Dancer and Good Future look the only other hopes and are possibilities for the tierce.