Remarkable Cruz lands cash

PUBLISHED : Monday, 22 May, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 22 May, 2006, 12:00am

Trainer snatches series from Moore with a one-two-three finish for $200,000

Tony Cruz is famous for his never-say-die attitude and rarely has it been needed as much as it was for him to lift yesterday's $200,000 bonus as leading trainer in the HSBC Premier Series.

Winning the $2 million HSBC Premier Sha Tin Vase (1,200 metres) yesterday with Regency Horse would not have been sufficient to wrest the cheque away from John Moore's vice-like grip. Even a quinella result would have seen Moore walk away with the bonus.

But, just like his glory days in the saddle that saw him take six titles as champion jockey, Cruz thrives on a challenge. And each of his four vase jockeys knew they were on a mission to win.

The result was that Cruz gained a one-two-three result with Regency Horse, Helene Pillaging and Fokine and the $200,000 series prize suddenly found a new owner.

'That result has given me a great thrill and full marks to Felix [Coetzee] for a perfect ride on Regency Horse,' Cruz said.

'He's a horse I really like because he has character - he puts himself into a race and tries his heart out.

'At his last start, he had a very hard run when Marco Chui rode him. He was caught off the track all the way. He should have been beaten, but this horse never knows how to give in.'

Three years ago, the Sha Tin Vase represented the elevation of Silent Witness to group company.

It was only the Australian-bred champion's fifth start and he effortlessly racked up win number five before training on and adding another 12 to make Hong Kong racing history.

But while the Vase might have been just the beginning for Silent Witness, Cruz feels the outlook is nowhere near as rosy for Regency Horse, regardless of his admirable courage.

'He's done a tremendous job, but I just don't think this is a Group One horse,' Cruz said. 'But that's six wins now, and over $5 million in prizemoney, so I don't think anyone can complain about him.'

Coetzee was undoubtedly happy to come out on the right side of yet another stable riding dilemma, this time having the choice of four Cruz-trained runners. But like the trainer, he too paid tribute to the fighting heart of this son of former British champion sprinter Stravinsky.

'We were a bit tight early, there was a bit of pushing and shoving going on, but with 115 pounds to carry, I thought we could afford to be a bit aggressive,' Coetzee said. 'Once he got out and into the clear, he was always going to hold them at bay.

'To get to this level with him has surprised me. Two wins ago, I thought he was just about in his place but he's become a real racehorse. It's his heart that's keeping him there.'

Regency Horse completed a stable double for both trainer and jockey, as they earlier claimed the Hung Mui Kuk Handicap with front-running Zero In.

'I gave him a rev-up behind the gates because the plan was to lead with him,' Coetzee continued. 'But when I went down to the start, he was so quiet with me I thought he needed waking up. So I gave him a couple of smacks to get his mind on the job.

'The interesting thing is that every time I've won on this horse, when we reached the home turn I thought I was going too fast. And it was the same today.

'Then I realised that's what I've always thought about him in the past and so I just pressed on, and he was much too good for them in the conditions.'