Cruz creeps up on leader with superb double
Trainer takes second spot in the table behind Dennis Yip but plays down his title chances
Even though it seems Tony Cruz is in with a big shot at a third trainers' title, to go with the six he won as a jockey, he was playing down his chances last night at Happy Valley and talking up what he called a "cool ride" by apprentice Alvin Ng Ka-chun on Multivictory.
A Cruz double added some more interest to the trainers' championship, as wins to Multivictory and Let's Goal saw him leap-frog John Size into second place and move within two wins of leader Dennis Yip Chor-hong with 14 meetings remaining in the season.
"I'll be doing my best in the trainers' championship," Cruz said. "But I was really happy with Alvin's ride."
Cruz may not have been happy 100m after the start, after Multivictory, an on-pace runner drawn three in a 1,200m Class Three contest, ended up back in the midfield ruck.
"He was just slow away," Ng said. "He didn't jump with them and I think the fact that it was his first time here had something to do with it, he is still very green and was a bit nervous."
Cruz added: "I was surprised to see him that far back. But being a jockey myself, I tell my jockeys, and I told Alvin to ride him according to the horse and to go with the flow, and wherever he found himself to stay cool, because the race doesn't start until the turn."
Cruz wasn't as complementary of his other success, saying Class Four winner Let's Goal (Gerald Mosse) "isn't much good" but had "appreciated some cut out of the ground and got lucky with a nice draw and run".
Those words were positively glowing compared with the description Caspar Fownes saved for Easy To Rich (Vincent Ho Chak-yiu). "This horse was an absolute reptile when he first came to me, and we very nearly let him go," Fownes said. "To get two wins out of him is a huge result. Vincent rode him well, we wanted him to push up on to the speed and he carried out the plan perfectly."
Plenty were calling track bias early when Ocean Roar (Eddie Lai Wai-ming) led in an on-pace procession in the first, a Class Five over 1,000m, but Gary Ng Tik-keung was having none of it. "That had nothing to do with the track, it was all to do with the horse," Ng said after the four-year-old won at start seven, at his first try in the bottom grade. "He will get better, and he will get further, too."Ng's assessment of the track proved correct, as winners also came from well back in the field later in the night. Even though the course copped more than 200mm of rain up until 9am on raceday, and then another 23mm during the day, the track stood up remarkably well even if times were still way below standard in most races.
Michael Chang Chun-wai's Oyster came from last in a Class Four race over the extended mile and surprised punters somewhat, but not his trainer. "He has been running some good races behind good horses this season," he said. Lai was suspended for two days, and fined HK$20,000, for the winning ride, to be served running off the back of another ban.
Zac Purton clawed one back in the jockeys' championship and now trails leader Douglas Whyte by seven after a win on Manfred Man Ka-leung's Galaxy Prancer.
"Last time I rode him he drew wide, and we had to take him back and he still ran a good race, so I thought he could win at the top of Class Three. I don't think he will be out of place in Class Two either, if he gets a good draw and some pace on in a race," he said.
Tommy Berry's combination with trainer Derek Cruz continues to grow, the pair now having combined with two winners in two meetings after Fun Rider came from behind, helped by a strong early tempo.
"They went pretty quick early and I took a sit," Berry said. "He can pull a bit, so the speed in the race was key. My twin brother Nathan was here visiting too, so it was great to get a win while he was here."
Andreas Suborics notched his 13th winner of the season when he scored on Ricky Yiu Poon-fai's Super Fresh, a horse his trainer says will be better next season.
Richard Fourie was suspended for two meetings for careless riding in race six.