Derek Cruz was glowing with confidence yesterday after Joy And Fun scorched the Meydan turf in his final hit-out before tomorrow's Al-Quoz Sprint and is unfazed his horse has never won over the race distance of 1,000 metres.
Joy And Fun won the Al-Quoz two years ago when it was run over 1,200m, but the race has been shortened and shifted to Dubai World Cup night, held over a distance Joy And Fun has tried twice in a 52-start career that has garnered 12 wins and more than HK$22 million in prize money.
'He is so well in himself and he is strong and consistent over the distance,' Cruz said after riding his horse through his impressive final pre-race gallop.
'I have given him a decent hit-out and he's pulled up not even blowing. He's just so well and he loves it here. The work is all done so he'll probably stay back at the barn now. We're just really looking forward to the big day.'
Cruz's eight-year-old has not only returned from a career-threatening injury since his Dubai win, but is in career-best form, with wins in the Chief Executive's Cup on the first day of the season and Chairman's Sprint Prize last month, as well as being narrowly beaten into second in the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Sprint.
'It's hard to come here and expect to win a race, but I am very confident,' Cruz said. 'It was a harder race last time. This race doesn't have the same class.'
Adding to Cruz's conviction is the horse's last run over the trip, a second in the Centenary Sprint Cup behind Eagle Regiment, who he rates as the biggest danger tomorrow.
'He is a real straight-course specialist and all he has to do is follow my horse,' Cruz said. 'If he is near his best and has handled the trip, I think he will be hard to beat.'
Brett Doyle left Hong Kong a winner when he drove Joy And Fun to victory in the Chairman's Sprint Prize in the last race of his contract, and has been flown in from England to take the ride.
'He won on him here last time and he knows the horse so well, they're a proven combination,' Cruz said. 'Brett knows the track and when to push the button.'