Carthage finally puts his best foot forward
After looking an expensive mistake for the best part of two years and single-handedly killing off the Trainer's Syndicate concept, Carthage finally took his turn in the winner's circle and trainer Derek Cruz is convinced it won't be the last time.
Dropping into Class Three for the first time but only four starts after finishing a mere four lengths behind the winner, California Memory, in the Group One Gold Cup last term, Carthage (Derek Leung Ka-chun) had become particularly well handicapped - if he put it all together.
The backstory to Carthage is almost as rich as the tales of the ancient city, the nemesis of Rome, from which he takes his name. Bought by John Moore as a Trainer's Syndicate horse and a Derby prospect after running in the 2009 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, Carthage was rated 97 but he could barely run out of sight on a dark night and never got to the races, let alone the Derby.
Moore then called for him to be gelded, but the horse's progress remained slow and the relationship between Moore and the syndicate disintegrated. After the very public falling out, ultimately the Jockey Club was forced to change its rules on Trainer's Syndicates and allow the horse to move to Cruz, and the club has since ditched altogether the Trainer's Syndicates, now in their final season.
Cruz got a tune of some sort out of Carthage, including that effort in the Gold Cup, but track watchers observed the stayer looked to have some foot issues and Cruz said his joints had been a problem and the handicapper relented, dropping him into Class Three and a 78 rating.
'I told the owners, these European horses can take quite a while to settle down and acclimatise - even now, Carthage is quite a panicky, nervy horse,' Cruz said. 'But I also thought that if he could run a couple of good races like he did when he wasn't right, then it was worth being patient with him and see if he could grow out of it. If a horse of his class reproduces his form in Class Three, then he is too talented for them and that's happened today even though 1,600m is short. I think he is just coming right and he can start to climb back up the ratings now.'
Leung said he carried some confidence into the race and had even more when the pace was solid.
'When I looked at his runs in some of those high-class races, he always came from the back and finished in 22- something his last 400m, so I knew if he did that today against Class Three horses, he would run well and be a chance,' he said.