Pure Champion 'up to the top graders'
Six-year-old proves his worth in a Group Three handicap, but Cruz believes with a better draw, the stallion will give big guns a scare
After Pure Champion claimed the Group Three Centenary Vase (1,800m) yesterday, his trainer Tony Cruz wasn't having any of the theory the six-year-old needs the big guns to stay at home before he can win a race.
Pure Champion (Gerald Mosse) was coming off a Group One Stewards' Cup 10th to Glorious Days and his previous win, a year ago, also came in a Group Three 1,800m handicap, but Cruz insisted it's all about the run the stallion gets and that he is right up to the top graders.
"I swear he can give Glorious Days a run for his money with the right draw, but he needs cover to show his best and this horse always seems to draw badly," Cruz said.
"When he's got cover, he can really accelerate but putting him in the right position is difficult from wide draws. When he is drawn out there, 1,600m becomes too short, and 2,000m too far but 1,800m is just perfect. But he must be covered."
From barrier 12, Mosse was assisted in his quest for the perfect trip by knowing stablemate Beauty Lead would be going forward as usual from gate nine and, with two backrunners drawn between them, he tracked over behind Beauty Lead to follow the pace forward.
"I said to Gerald to get behind my other horse and get into the race that way and it couldn't have worked out more perfectly," Cruz said.
Indeed it couldn't, with Pure Champion finding the one-out one-back position and poised to strike on straightening, and his only concern came over the final stages as the John Moore-trained Dan Excel (Neil Callan) tried to drive along the inside rail and was checked as the winner rolled back to the fence.
"The margin was a length and a quarter, which was too much to think about a protest," Moore said. "But Dan Excel had been held up earlier in the straight too and, with clear running all the way, I think he'd have made it very interesting with the winner. We aren't getting quite the luck in these Group races that we've been used to the last couple of seasons - I might have to head down to the temple and change the luck."
Mosse said it was a characteristic of Pure Champion to lay in in his races but he had been surprised to see Callan so aggressively pursuing the narrow inside run when the race was almost over.
"When I pressed him hard after I got past Beauty Lead, he hung in but he always does and even in a Ferrari the second horse couldn't have reached me at that stage," said Mosse, clearly disappointed that the incident had earned him a two-day suspension for careless riding.
The win was Cruz's third in the Centenary Vase, having won it as a jockey on Romantic Tango and twice previously as a trainer, with Deauville and Bullish Luck.
John Size had gone into the race with a strong hand, Fay Fay and Real Specialist, but while Fay Fay ran his usual honest race for fifth without threatening much better, Real Specialist finished tailed out and a vet examination showed the gelding had suffered a heart irregularity.
"He was never ever travelling like he normally does, I knew I was in trouble very early," said jockey Tye Angland.