Cruz and Chadwick continue their good run
Trainer Tony Cruz continues to stay in touch with league leader John Size in the chase for training honours this season, with a double trimming the margin back to six as he landed two progressive young horses in successive races.
Matthew Chadwick was aboard as Happy Index improved with one run under the belt, and at his first attempt on the dirt, to lead throughout despite doing a bit wrong in race four, then Cruz's former apprentice gave Mega Champion a perfect trip half an hour later to make it two for the afternoon.
For Mega Champion, the victory at almost 15-1 came too late for punters who supported him as one of the favourites at his previous outing, when he had been ridden by Douglas Whyte and was heard to cough before the start of the race, then pulled up with mucopus in his throat after failing.
'There's nothing worse for a horse than mucopus,' Cruz said ruefully. 'They can't breathe with it so they can't run, so when he coughed at the gates last time he was probably beaten before the race even started.'
There was no sign of any issue this time, though, as Mega Champion nestled away in midfield for Chadwick before unleashing a solid burst to take him to the front in the final 200m and continue Cruz's good run of success for the owner Eddie Wong Ming-chak.
If the odds for Mega Champion were somewhat surprising on the high side, considering the stewards' report regarding what happened last time out, then the $30 dividend for Happy Index looked decidedly niggardly for a youngster comfortably beaten into fourth on debut, but it was all about the switch of venue and he justified the price.
Like most of the Elusive Quality breed, Happy Index relished the move from the turf to the dirt.
'He looks a dirt specialist and he has plenty of improvement - he really didn't know where he was today,' said Chadwick. 'He's very green and laid out around the turn.'
Cruz was equally encouraged, summing up the three-quarter length win with 'now we'll see what he takes from that'.
'I put side winkers on him today to help him concentrate and he was better than his first run, but he is very immature,' Cruz said. 'We'll just stick to this formula, I think - the all-weather and 1,200m - and we'll see where he can go.'