Cruz is finding his peak now, Da Silva says
Well known owner Archie da Silva threw his considerable weight behind Tony Cruz's push for this year's championship at Happy Valley last night, as Crown Witness helped the trainer creep to a significant lead in the title race.
Crown Witness (Matthew Chadwick) slipped to the front in the Silent Witness colours and pricked his ears around the first turn of the Longchamp Racecourse Handicap (1,650m) before grinding his rivals into the dust at his first experience of the city track.
The three-year-old's win gave Cruz - absent in Singapore last night with California Memory - a five-win cushion over John Moore with just 14 meetings remaining, and Da Silva as stable spokesman said he was 'only just peaking'.
'Like all Tony's horses running at the moment, he's just hitting his top now. He's a big horse and he's needed those races lately to get him fit but I think he needed the longer distance, too,' said Da Silva. 'Tony told me he's a funny horse this one, he just falls asleep in the lead. I thought he might run him at a mile at Sha Tin but Tony said that coming here with all the turns was going to be better for him and we can always go back to Sha Tin later. I think Tony's going to run him a couple more times this season and if that's what he needs to win the championship, then it's all right with me.'
Chadwick said Crown Witness had been finding the 1,400m too short in his last two runs at Sha Tin, but 'when he got to the front and put his ears up early in the race tonight, I could see this was going to be different'.
Another who appreciated the move to Happy Valley was Euro Power (Zac Purton), who took the France Galop Cup in a desperate three-way finish with Groovy (Tye Angland) and Vintage Hussler.
'The track was too firm at Sha Tin last time - the softer surface here is why he races more consistently at Happy Valley,' said trainer Manfred Man Ka-leung, who landed a nice feat on the night, also winning with owner Yeung Pak-yau's other horse, Euro Swiftly (Angland) earlier in the night. It was Angland's first win since his nasty fall at the Chinese New Year meeting in February that resulted in a three-month lay-off, and the young Australian was thrilled to be back in the winner's circle.
'My fitness has been good, I just haven't had many strong chances in the rides I've had since I got back,' Angland said.
'But Euro Swiftly travelled well in the run and never felt like being beaten tonight. When I went for him he really let down well.'Leading apprentice Vincent Ho Chak-yiu dominated the night in the saddle, winning a double on Win Practitioner and Dynamic Cross, the latter giving trainer Peter Ng Bik-kuen his 400th winner as a trainer.
Keith Yeung Ming-lun failed to land a winner, but the apprentice did cause a stir when he came off Wine Win in the final race and briefly lay unconscious on the track.
He was taken to hospital for observation and stood down for five calendar days, ruling him out of Saturday's meeting.