Leading Ahead stamps his authority
Tony Cruz's rare intuition with horses was once again confirmed with yesterday's sparkling debut win of Australian private purchase Leading Ahead.
Cruz said he had watched the former West Australian racer competing in two of the big races for three-year-olds during the Melbourne spring carnival last year and had an intuitive but clear sense 'that I can improve this horse'.
Leading Ahead had won four of his five starts in Perth, where he raced under the name Egomaniac. His wins ranged from 1,200 to 2,200 metres and a bloodstock agent contacted Cruz to offer him the three-year-old.
'I looked at his tapes and I was quite impressed,' Cruz recalled. 'But when he went to Melbourne, I could see he was at the end of a preparation and had gone over the top. That's when I thought 'I can improve this horse'.'
Yesterday, on his Hong Kong debut in the Duddel Handicap for Class Two horses at 1,600m, Leading Ahead was given a gun ride by apprentice Marco Chui Kwan-lai, who was warmly commended by the trainer.
'Marco did a great job there,' Cruz said.
'He got cleaned up when another horse jumped sideways at the start, but Marco didn't panic. He just balanced the horse on the rails and took the runs as they presented themselves. It was a good ride, and a good win.'
Although Leading Ahead failed in the Victoria Derby late last year, Cruz feels the handsome bay gelding will develop into a classic contender in Hong Kong early next year.
'He has the body and physique of a stayer,' Cruz said. 'He's won first-up at 1,600 metres today, so I don't see there being any problem with him getting 2,000 metres. After all, he's already a winner at 2,200 metres in Perth.'
Leading Ahead was specked late in betting from $180 into $148.50 and apart from the early skirmish at barrier rise, when Argentinian import Super Pegasus shifted left, the gamble always looked like coming off.
Cruz will now get down to the part of the job he enjoys the most - preparing his top horses for the big races. And he is gaining confidence day by day that he can win a third Champions Mile with either Bullish Luck or Floral Pegasus.
'Bullish Luck has won the Champions Mile the last two years and this is always his time of the year. And with Floral Pegasus, I've been amazed how well he's come out of the Derby, he hasn't taken a backward step at all. He's really thrived.'