Cruz happy as handicappers go easy on Regency
Champion trainer Tony Cruz must have taken heart at the re-handicaps on Monday morning as it looked like his comments are finally being recognised by Ciaran Kennelly and his staff at Sports Road.
After a stirring finish that saw Regency Horse prevail by a short head over Crowned Gem on Sunday, the premier trainer told the media that 'if my horse should get five points for winning, the second horse should get four - that was a great run'.
We hope he sent off an invoice to the handicapping department for a casual shift because lo and behold Regency Horse received six points and Crowned Gem five in the re-handicaps on Monday.
But whatever the inspiration behind the point difference, Crowned Gem's connections probably felt a little hard done-by at the five point lift without a win.
Before the handicappers jump on the telephone, yes, we recognise that Gerald Mosse posted two pounds overweight so Crowned Gem effectively raced off a rating two points higher than on paper anyway and that has been included in this penalty. But it still looks like a continuation of the trend of not being too hard on winning horses which came through in the statistics at the end of last season.
While prizemoney is only part of the equation, the winner earned $427,500 for victory and second just $165,000. And the re-handicap has hardly made Crowned Gem any good thing to turn the tables if they meet again next week, given that Regency Horse, who is less experienced and a bit greener, looks to have more improvement.
And while we're on re-handicapping, the off-season ratings drops this year seem to have been unusually light. One of the perennial stimuli to Hong Kong betting has been the illusion of the off-season handicap drop. Horses who might have won off 52 and then drifted up to the mid to high 50s for the season were likely to come out for the new season back near their winning mark and connections were rubbing their hands in anticipation.
Consider Ke Jia Wang, for instance. A moderate winner off 40 in January up the straight, he was raised to 46 and managed to plummet back to 44 for last Sunday's Dongguan Handicap, despite being unplaced in five starts. In years past, he might have been expected to be back down close to 40 after the off-season and those behind him would have been anticipating an early success.
Illusion it might have been in the past, as all the other horses were dropping by similar amounts, but it was enough to give owners and trainers a bit of confidence and that generates betting turnover.
While restructuring the Jockey Club's tax should make this a positive turnover season, we've said it before: those tools available to the club and which do not require legislation have hardly been worn out.