Cruz scratchings prove costly
The Tony Cruz horses are costing the Jockey Club a pretty penny in late scratchings this season, with Very Fit's withdrawal at the gates yesterday as an odds-on chance leading to the return of $55 million in bets. That comes on top of $43 million returned last month when Perfect Partner was scratched before the start of the Stewards' Cup as a hot favourite.
The withdrawal of Very Fit didn't stop the Jockey Club's overall turnover being a $30 million improvement on last year's figure, though with the 11-race programme rescuing the situation.
But it was part of a rollercoaster ride on the day for stable jockey Felix Coetzee, who was on the wrong stable runner in the Gold Cup then had Very Fit miss his race and finished the day with just the griffin winner, Lucky Unicorn, to contemplate happily.
The Cruz-trained two-year-old never looked in much danger after starting odds-on in the opening race and brought the season's first juvenile event home in style.
'He was very well educated, he has a lovely temperament and that was a nice introduction to racing for him,' Coetzee said. 'His trials was good down the straight but he had definitely come on since then and looks a very smart young horse.'
In the Leung Kai-Fai colours made famous by Derby and Hong Kong Mile-winner Lucky Owners last season, the son of boom Australian stallion Redoute's Choice cruised in by over two lengths.
The split 1,800m race that produced the 11-race card was very much a tale of something old and something new as Art Trader produced his credentials for the Hong Kong Derby and Summerland started to live up to expectations that brought him here for it last year. Art Trader (Michael Rodd) won the first of the Class Two races, but trainer John Moore is well aware of the logjam in front of him as the four-year-olds queue for a Derby run next month.
'He's won off a rating of 84 and I suppose there are a few in front of him but I hope the Jockey Club can talk some other owners out of running sprinters in the race just because they are highly-rated,' Moore said. 'What happened at Happy Valley when he stood in the gates put us behind the eight-ball but now he's qualified. He's a horse with everything before him, on the way up and will stay, but the higher-rated sprinters can get into the Derby field in front of him, unfortunately.'
Danny Shum Chap-shing-trained Summerland (Gly Schofield) won his second race in the other division - foiling the Derby aspirations of Wind Winner, among others, and starting to set his record straight after coming as a Private Purchase for the Derby last season. 'It has taken him a long time to get settled and relaxed,' said Schofield, who was aboard in the first win, too. 'Danny and the owner Mr Yung have been patient, but Summerland is now starting to live up to some of his earlier promise.'
The only thing left to write about Being Famous - who has now won five from his past six starts - is that he has been the willing beneficiary of a policy rookie trainer Almond Lee Yee-tat introduced early this season.
'I started with mostly weak or unsound horses, so I thought I would not give them much work and just race them so they would keep going and be able to last the season,' Lee said. 'I think Being Famous enjoys the light preparation and just keeps coming back in good form.'
Jockey Brett Prebble said the gelding had almost found yesterday's 1,400m too short and is looking for further now, but his sheer willingness made the difference.