Record-breaking Cruz sets sights high

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 19 June, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 19 June, 2005, 12:00am

'My next goal is to win as many trainers' titles as I won as a jockey'

Tony Cruz may have saddled many wonderful horses during the season, headlined by Silent Witness and Bullish Luck, but when it came to securing George Moore's 'unbreakable' Hong Kong training record, it was landed by the one of the least-credentialed beasts in the stable.

Mr Genki, starting at $111.50 for $10, led for just about every centimetre of the Seagull Handicap (Class Four, 1,400 metres) and jockey Felix Coetzee was never concerned in the final 400m as the New Zealand-bred gelding hit the line with a 23/4 length advantage.

Last week, Cruz equalled Moore's 25-year-old benchmark of 87 for the most winners in a Hong Kong season and the leading trainer had a long week's wait to gain the record outright, with Wednesday's Happy Valley fixture being abandoned due to heavy rain.

'I'm so very proud to have finally broken George Moore's record,' an excited Cruz said. 'George was an icon of Hong Kong racing, our champion trainer for many years and I had many great battles as a jockey with his son Gary.

'My goal at the start of the season was simply to win the trainers' premiership for a second time. I had finished second to John Size for the previous two years and when I looked at my performance figures at this time last year, I knew what I had to do to win it. And I did.

'But as the season wore on, and I looked at the rate at which I was training winners, I began to realise that George Moore's record was a possibility. After I equalled John Size's modern-day record of winners [73] a few weeks back, that's when I said let's have a shot at George Moore's record.'

Moore, who won the Hong Kong trainers' championship an incredible 11 times, trained his 87 winners during the 1980 season, 10 years before the Jockey Club imposed a 60-horse ceiling on the number any trainer could prepare.

One of the first to pay tribute to Cruz was Moore's son John, himself a former trainers' championship winner and who led in a double of his own on yesterday's programme.

'Congratulations to Tony, it's been a really great effort,' Moore said. 'I've got to say, I didn't think Dad's record would ever be broken so full credit to Tony for what he has achieved.

'The only thing I would add, in support of my father, is that there were a lot fewer races in those days, so training 87 winners was quite an incredible effort regardless of how many horses he had at his disposal.'

In fact, there were 457 races decided in Hong Kong in 1980, compared to approximately 700 in the current season, which will now draw to a close on June 29.

Coetzee was in high spirits at the end of the day, with Mr Genki advancing his best-ever season to 79. 'George Moore's record has been Tony's goal for quite some time now and I'm just so pleased I was the one who rode the horses that equalled and broke the record for him,' he said.

Cruz has had a staggering season. Not only has he landed a record haul of 88 winners, but he's shattered his own prize money record (now $112 million and counting) and, for the second successive year, he's won seven of Hong Kong's 14 Group One races.

But even in the euphoria of victory, Hong Kong's home-grown hero was looking ahead, and setting even bigger goals to motivate him for the future.

'I've now won 10 premierships in Hong Kong - two as an apprentice, six as a jockey and this will be my second as leading trainer,' Cruz said. 'I want this to be the start of a sequence. My next goal is to win as many trainers' titles as I won as a jockey, so that means four more.

'I've got 16 more years of training in Hong Kong, so I figure I've got plenty of time to make it six training titles.'