Cruz stays in title hunt with long-shot double
DEREK Cruz bounced back to form in emphatic fashion with a 25-1 double at Sha Tin yesterday afternoon.
Cruz is enjoying a brilliant second season with a licence and yesterday's double, through newcomer Allegresse in the opening griffin event and Our Pal in the Clague Cup, took him to 31 winners, four behind defending champion John Moore.
Allegresse's victory came courtesy of the stewards' but the panel, led by Bernard Hargreaves, were absolutely spot on to award the race to the two-year-old and relegate Eddie Lo's Good Choice to second.
Declan Murphy, riding as well as anyone in the territory, came in for the ride on Our Pal and then completed a double of his own when again riding the perfect race to get Geoff Lane's Better Choice home on the line from City Raider.
But the day belonged to Cruz who, despite a lean period, believed Allegresse would be good enough in the opener to overcome his lack of experience and that Our Pal was in better shape than ever.
After watching them both win, he bounced down the stands to say: ''Allegresse is still a baby but he's by Straight Strike and they often come to hand early in their careers.
''I'm really looking forward to racing him next season when he should be that much stronger. Remember, he's only a two-year-old.
''Our Pal has been one of the stable's best horses this season. He's now won three of his seven starts and you have to think that today's win, against the toughest company he has faced, was his best.
''Declan gave him a brilliant ride from the outside barrier.'' The quality of the performances from Allegresse and Good Choice in the opener stood sharp contrast to Dennis C. H. Yip's ride on the latter who was first-past-the-post.
Good Choice crossed Allegresse at a vital stage as they came inside the final 150 metres and the race-meeting stewards had no choice but to reverse the first two placings.
Both these horses are nice prospects for next season when they should easily hold their own over farther in Class Three.
As for Yip. Punters who took the 15-1 about Good Choice can feel decidedly aggrieved. The local jockey, riding with his whip in his left hand, looked over at Greg Childs on Allegresse on his inside and knew exactly where they were. He even stopped using the whip for a while, seemingly mindful of his horse drifting in and taking Allegresse's ground.
But instead of pulling it through into his right hand and ensuring his mount did not come off a straight course, Yip proceeded to give him a couple more cracks and then, bingo, the interference occurred.
Childs had to snatch up and switch his mount round Good Choice. He lost a good length in the process and was beaten the shortest of short heads on the line.
There can be no arguing with the stipes' decision nor, on this evidence, with Yip's decision to give up riding to become an assistant trainer.
For the record, Ivan Allan's newcomer Team Valour stayed on well behind Allegresse and is another who will be winning races.
Murphy's talents will be sorely missed next season though he will be in action across the way in Macau.
If he was good on Our Pal, he was great on Better Choice. He hugged the rails the whole way and refused to panic when Gerald Mosse kicked clear on City Raider. Murphy ground him down on Better Choice to win in the final strides by a-length-and-a-quarter.
The accomplished Irish American rider has now partnered 23 winners this season while his trainer, Lane, was moving on to 25.