Arise, Sir Ernesto - Derek Cruz's stable star grabs Group success
Derek Cruz's honest Sir Ernesto finally had all the cards dealt his way to land the HSBC Premier Plate (1,800m) under a clever frontrunning ride from Felix Coetzee.
The five-year-old had been thrown in against the top-end horses most of the season and found things just too tough but a field of only six yesterday ensured that Coetzee was able to get away with grand larceny in front.
Steadying the gelding in his usual frontrunner's role, Coetzee held him down to as slow as he dared before letting the chestnut pick up the tempo from the 700m and ensure that the race didn't become a short sprint home.
'He's got such a big, bold action that you wouldn't want to go too slow on him but he's also quite one-paced so I made a move a bit earlier than I might have done on a horse with a quicker sprint,' Coetzee said.
'I was a bit disappointed with his last run over the mile behind Good Ba Ba in the Chairman's Trophy, and it's always in the back of your mind now that he's had some hard racing in tough company all season and maybe he was coming to the end but Derek told me he thought the horse seemed in better form today.'
So it seemed as the gelding staved off the finish of Syllabus to take the race by a neck and Coetzee was quick to pat Sir Ernesto down the shoulder for landing the first Group win.
'He's tried hard all season and hasn't been disgraced against the very best horses around - Armada, Floral Pegasus, The Duke, these kinds of horses - so he did deserve to win a decent race,' Coetzee said.
'Derek's done a great job with him because I remember when I first rode him he was quite keen but he settles beautifully these days. I suppose that where he is in the ratings now he'll have to go back to take on the big names again but he's terribly honest and they won't want to make too many mistakes.'
The HSBC Premier Plate was the fourth leg of the HSBC Premier series and while Cruz and Coetzee were registering their first points of the six-event series, Howard Cheng Yue-tin on runner-up Syllabus managed to take six points to cement his place in the lead for the jockeys' prize of HK$200,000.
Coetzee made it a double later on the card when the Michael Chang Chun-wai-trained Enchanted scored in the High West Handicap (1,400m).