Moore puts heat back on Cruz with treble
The engraver was halfway through putting Tony Cruz's name on the trainers' championship trophy, but John Moore sent him for an unscheduled break with a treble that breathed life back into the contest.
Cruz has looked home and hosed in the championship race for several weeks, but went winless at Sha Tin as Moore scored with Sky Mascot (Jeff Lloyd), Able Speed and Smart Giant (Lloyd), took himself to 69 wins and clawed back the margin to only three. Seeking his sixth championship but the first for almost 20 years, Moore simply will not go away and even hinted that his impressive three-year-old winner Smart Giant might be called upon again.
'If he comes through this run all right, there might be a race for him on the final day,' said Moore after the lightly raced son of Pins confirmed his promise in the High Autonomy Handicap (1,400m).
The battleground moves to Happy Valley midweek, where Cruz has six likely runners and Moore has four, with the very real possibility that what looked a dead rubber will ultimately go right to the wire next weekend on the last day of the season.
Lloyd was full of praise for Smart Giant, who did things wrong and still was good enough to get himself out of any trouble after being heavily supported as favourite.
'He shuffled out of the stalls and did a few things wrong and we had some work to do to get into a decent position,' Lloyd said. 'But he's got a good turn of foot and put himself back in the race when it mattered and he really is just still learning. For an immature big baby, he probably couldn't have done more than what he did winning today, but when he gets over further as a four-year-old, that' when you'll see the best of him.'
Lloyd's first winner, Sky Mascot was part of a familiar pattern on the rain-affected all-weather surface - in front or close to the lead and again the fence, with all three dirt victors posting comfortable margins.
'He jumped so well and I found myself there and I thought I might as well keep going. No weight, he kicked strongly,' Lloyd said.
Moore has been surprised by Sky Mascot's affinity for the artificial surface, with the three-year-old's two wins both coming on the all-weather.
'He ran well first up from a wide gate and I expected him to run well from a better draw today. He seems to have found his niche on the surface but, being by Show A Heart from a Danehill mare, I wouldn't have picked him as a dirt horse on pedigree,' Moore said.