Beauty Flash owner eyes bigger prize
A last-gasp bid to claim the Horse Of The Year title has been enough to convince owner Simon Kwok Siu-ming to make a second attempt on the HK$18.8 million Yasuda Kinen in Tokyo today with Beauty Flash, and trainer Tony Cruz has an air of understated confidence.
Like Caspar Fownes, who has Thumbs Up in the race, Cruz was not going out on a limb yesterday but did state for the record that Beauty Flash would run 'a lot better' than his 11th last year, when the gelding recorded a sharp weight increase before the race and a blood-in-trachea finding after it.
'The Yasuda Kinen had been on the schedule for the horse since last year, knowing he would be a stronger horse this season. But after the earthquake, with the radiation worries, Simon was reluctant for Beauty Flash to come to Tokyo until I told him we needed to win it,' Cruz said this week. 'When Beauty Flash had won the Hong Kong Mile and two other Group Ones, we thought we had the Horse Of The Year sewn up for this season. Then Ambitious Dragon came along. I said to Simon that winning here was our last chance to get the title back.'
Beauty Flash and Thumbs Up were dismissed in early betting in favour of local idol Apapane yesterday, with Apapane at one stage a niggardly 1.3 favourite to win her sixth Group One, but Cruz and Fownes both said they could not be happier with their charges.
'It's only his first trip away but Thumbs Up has really thrived,' Fownes said. 'He looks a treat and I feel he will be very competitive in the race.'
Cruz said he was looking for a top-four finish with Beauty Flash, who is not unlike Apapane in that he doesn't win by big margins but frequently manages to have his head in front when the line comes up.
'I expect a much better run than last year but I can't be over confident about winning - I've won this race before but I have been here a few times and been beaten and it isn't easy to win,' Cruz said.
The Yasuda Kinen was the stage for Fairy King Prawn to land Hong Kong's first Group One on foreign soil in 2000 and there has been a decent parade of elite winners overseas since, but the Yasuda Kinen remains a tough assignment. So much so that it is seven years since a foreign runner from anywhere but Hong Kong has even tackled the race.
Hong Kong had a second winner in the Cruz-trained Bullish Luck five years ago - ridden by Brett Prebble, who will be on Thumbs Up today - but Armada's second in 2008 is the only placing from the 12 visitors to start in the race since 2006.
Cruz was asked by the media this week if Beauty Flash was yet in Bullish Luck's league.
'When he came last year, I said he would improve because he was still immature. This season, he hasn't had the problems with blood in his trachea which he had previously and that's why he has been able to win three Group Ones,' Cruz explained. 'So he has improved but I would still say that Bullish Luck is the better horse.'