Cruz contender finally back on Straight and narrow
Trainer Tony Cruz revealed that Straight Forward has been anything but since his arrival last season, yet the five-year-old turned his form on its head at Happy Valley last night with a last-to-first win that heralded better things.
Purchased out of the Aidan O'Brien yard as a potential Derby contender, Straight Forward had form in Europe that included a second in the Group Two Dante Stakes at York and a Group One fourth in Paris when he raced as Freemantle.
But Cruz explained the reasons behind the horse's dismal form in eight local starts after Gerald Mosse surged down the outside to complete a winning double for the night.
'When he arrived, this horse had fibre damage to a tendon, then he had cycloids, like boils, on his abdomen, which needed to be burned off with lasers,' Cruz said.
'Then we had to have him gelded as well. He has been disappointing but I knew he was a better horse than he was showing and with all that going on, there were reasons why he was disappointing.'
Straight Forward was also aided by a change of tactics from a wide draw that saw him dropped out to the rear rather than contesting the front.
'We had to do something to try to get him in from the wide draw - he still ended up three wide but was good enough to run on and win in this grade,' Cruz said.
Mosse also won on Win A Dozen earlier in the evening but had to bow to Jeff Lloyd for overall jockey honours.
Lloyd took the Jockey Challenge with a second in the opening race followed by wins on Oasis Davis for Andy Leung Ting-wah and on Kick Serve for Michael Chang Chun-wai. It was a welcome change of fortune for the South African, who caught a two-day careless riding ban on Sunday at Sha Tin and a nine-day suspension on Tuesday for his handling of Supreme De Union last week.
Oasis Davis has taken his time about hitting winning form, but now has wins at two of his past three, both at 1,200m after being tried at longer both before and in between.
'He just goes too hard for his own good at the longer races, the pace of the 1,200m seems to suit and he really finds the line,' Lloyd said.
'As for Kick Serve, he's been working up to something and I thought his last run was his best here. And he drew a decent alley tonight for a change.'
British rider Neil Callan completes his stint here on Sunday before starting a careless riding ban and returning home, but scored his second win in 10 days and quipped that he was just warming up when Ocean Prince won for Derek Cruz.
'Actually it was a terrific ride from Neil from the bad draw - he had a bit of luck in running to get into the spot he did in freakish circumstances, but full credit to him for being quick enough to take advantage of that,' Cruz said.
Earlier in the night, Paul O'Sullivan's return to form continued with Good Boy Boy (Zac Purton) taking his record to two wins from six starts when he landed the second event.
After a terribly slow start to the term, O'Sullivan has landed four wins in recent meetings to put some respectability back into his season.
'The horse is still big and raw and headstrong and 1,000m just suits him at this stage but he'll get 1,200m later,' Purton said. 'This is the first time he's come out on terms with them at the Valley, which made things easier, and he's going to keep getting better with racing.'