Cruz's high-priced star finally in credit

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 January, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 January, 2005, 12:00am

Patience pays off as Floral Dynamite takes out feature event

Championship-leading trainer Tony Cruz provided the one-two punch in the January Cup at Happy Valley last night as former high-priced International Sale griffin Floral Dynamite all but squared accounts at last.

Floral Dynamite (Felix Coetzee) was the top-priced lot of the 2001 International Sale at $4.8 million and finally pushed his track earnings past that mark when he defied a difficult trip and the attentions of long-odds stablemate Lucky Good Day to hold a nose margin in last night's feature.

The first prize of $912,000 pushed Floral Dynamite past $5.1 million in stakes as his 1,800-metre win became the second leg of a double for Cruz and Coetzee, who also combined to win with Supersonic, and stretched the trainer's championship break over John Size to 10 wins.

But neither trainer nor jockey held much hope for Floral Dynamite as the field thundered past the winning post the first time and the stallion was posted three wide on the outside of the leading horses.

'Naturally I was concerned about drawing barrier 12 in the race and I wasn't happy when he was so wide going out of the straight,' Cruz said. Coetzee was thinking the same on top of Floral Dynamite.

'It was not going to be pretty early. But the irony was that when my stablemate Lucky Good Day got squeezed out at the start, there was one less horse in the contest for the early lead, so I was one horse closer and finally able to get across when the speed slacked up a bit,' the jockey said. 'I burned some petrol to get there but at least once we were outside the leader, he did get a rest mid-race which left him with just enough to hold on.'

Cruz said he felt that Floral Dynamite was now maturing into a horse who needed the extra distance over which he had been suspect in the past.

'Previously, he was not strong at 1,800m or longer but I think he is changing, and now it's what he's looking for,' said Cruz, who took the quinella with his former Argentinian horse, Lucky Good Day, who surged late to just fail, a nose in front of gallant Bull's Eye. 'I'm very pleased with the second horse. We're trying to qualify him for the Derby and a run like that is certainly going to help.'

The trainer-jockey combination of Dennis Yip Chor-hong and Eric Saint-Martin also brought back a double, with brilliant displays from Saint-Martin to guide Mamouska and Brave Knight home.

The win on Brave Knight, often tricky at the start of his races, was a masterful effort from the Frenchman, who solved the riddle of the race in a few seconds by ensuring a quick getaway and a box-seat run on the way to giving the jockey his 300th Hong Kong career win.

Wins by Mamouska, Brave Knight and Peter Ng Bik-kuen-trained Watchman (Alex Lai Hoi-wing) were also important to charity donations to tsunami relief organisations, with local trainers pledging a proportion of their winning percentages last night.

While Saint-Martin was earning rave reviews, so too was Darryll Holland for his winning steer on Chosen One for David Ferraris.

'This horse has had terrible luck with bad draws every start and his races have all been better than they might have looked,' said Ferraris. 'Even tonight, he drew gate 10 again but he was ridden superbly and that was the difference. Chosen One needs racing, he still shows his inexperience, but he is very laid back, ideal for Hong Kong, and I think he's a nice horse.'

And jockey Michael Rodd did everything right on Handbag Premier for Paul O'Sullivan in the fifth to notch an early win after returning last weekend from a layoff with a broken wrist.

'I'm just thrilled. That was such an important win so early after coming back and in the run he never felt like he was going to be beaten,' Rodd said.