Bullish Champion's next target is the Derby, says Cruz
Tony Cruz had his doubts Bullish Champion would get further than 1,200m earlier in the season, but the impressive type could now head to the Group One Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong Derby next start off a five-week break, on the strength of an all- the-way win in a Class One over 1,400m.
Cruz, who combined for a double with Matthew Chadwick, still wonders whether Bullish Champion will get a trip, but insistent owners, excited by the four-year-old's progress, have their hearts set on the most prestigious race on March 18.
'He's next start will probably be the Derby,' Cruz said. 'Obviously I think the 2,000m is a bit too long, but the owner is so keen to run in the Derby, so why the hell not?'
The colt now has a record of two wins from seven starts, and a rating which will take a hefty jump from the 100 he took into yesterday's event.
Bullish Champion, who Cruz described as having a 'bad attitude' when he arrived from Europe, showed his growing maturity for Chadwick when he was asked to cross from barrier 13 and lead.
From there Chadwick rated the horse perfectly and cruised to a 11/2-length victory.
'He was on auto pilot today,' said Chadwick, who added the horse was adaptable enough to be ridden off the speed effectively.
'He is a nice horse and he really switched off after he got to the front, but he does like to be handy.'
Cruz said Bullish Champion's improved attitude showed as did his growing physical stature.
'When I was putting the saddle on him, he just felt dynamite,' Cruz said. 'He is improving. He had a bad attitude but he is now racing a bit more relaxed.'
Yesterday's meeting was the 43rd of 83 for the season, and Bullish Champion's win gave Cruz 31 wins to take him within eight of leader John Size, who was winless.
Size's stable full of progressive youngsters with more wins in store will make him hard to catch in the second half of the season, but Cruz has got a potential-laden three-year-old of his own in Happy Index, who scooted away to make it back-to-back Class Fours on the dirt.
'He is a young horse who is improving all the time,' Cruz said of the son of Elusive Quality.
'He has got natural speed and he likes the dirt, but the next step will be on the grass in Class Three, and I think he'll handle the turf well. The most he'll get is 1,400m.'
Chadwick who moved to 24 wins and fourth in the jockeys' championship, said Happy Index had wanted to stop when clear on his way to the 11/4-length victory.
'He has got improvement in him, the last 50m he was waiting for them to catch him, he was a bit lost,' he said.
'He is going to improve on that, strength-wise he'll get better and he is still very green.'