Sore Luffy stretches legs behind gates, then does it all on the track
A history of sesamoid bone issues and subsequent lameness saw the Tony Cruz-trained first-starter Luffy start a despised 55-1 outsider, but once behind the gates, the four-year-old seemed to shed any soreness was an impressive winner on debut.
Cruz has faced a battle just to keep Luffy in training and qualify him to race, let alone have him in winning shape. But drawn one, jockey Umberto Rispoli was able to give the four-year-old the run of the race - but not before a thorough warm-up behind the starting stalls.
"I heard that he has had plenty of problems with the vets," Rispoli said. "But when I got him warmed up on the way to the gates, I found that he has a really nice action, very confident - he is a beautiful horse, I think this horse can win again. "It's good to show I can win on a horse at big odds - it's happened a few times with me here," he added.
Rispoli certainly has shown a knack with outsiders, with five of his 12 local wins arriving at odds of 26-1 or higher. The Italian, who now has six wins for the term, said Luffy has a good competitive streak, which obviously helps him overcome his persistent leg problems.
"He has got some fight, when a horse came to his outside he really pushed," he said. "He is a cheeky horse, it was his first run and he didn't mind racing inside of, and in between, other horses."
A debut win over 1,400m can be indicative of a horse that wants further in the future, but Cruz tended to think seven furlongs would turn out to be the gelding's "pet distance".
But the biggest problem for Luffy won't be ability - it will be soundness. A quick look at the Hong Kong Jockey Club website's vet report for the horse would have been enough to scare most punters off, with developmental defects in both his front legs and osteoarthritis forcing Cruz to play catch up with the horse since his arrival earlier this year.
"He came at the end of last season, April or May, but he has always had a problem - it's been so hard to get him sound," Cruz said. "He has been lame several times, they failed him in his trials - but he has always shown some ability."