Tony Cruz believes his charge Giovanni Canaletto should be sent out favourite for tomorrow’s BMW Hong Kong Derby, but the trainer is also facing a conundrum different to most handlers heading into the HK$18 million feature – whether the galloper might find the Derby trip too short.
Cruz sends out three runners in the feature, a race he has won three times as a rider and twice as a trainer, but while King Genki and Green Dispatch look bit players, Coolmore castoff Giovanni Canaletto looms as a genuine chance with the step up to 2,000m after eyecatching runs in the first two legs of the four-year-old series behind John Size’s Sun Jewellery.
“Giovanni Canaletto, he’s the one – I think anyone who saw his run in the Classic Cup will want to be on him. He should be favourite for the Derby after that,” Cruz said, referring to the son of Galileo’s barnstorming fifth in the 1,800m Group One after coming from last on the turn.
"Joao Moreira got straight off the horse and committed to him for the Derby, I know he could have ridden one for John Moore but he has stuck solid.”
But while some trainers, like Size with Sun Jewellery and Ricky Yiu Poon-fai with Blizzard, are unsure whether their horses will have enough stamina to see out 2,000m, Cruz warns that he does have one niggling doubt in his head about Giovanni Canaletto – that he may find the Derby trip slightly too sharp.
“Maybe 2,000m might still be too short for him,” he said. “I think in the future it will definitely be short, he’s the type who is more likely to be winning Hong Kong Vases and he might even find himself in the Champions & Chater Cup in May. He’s nothing but a stayer, everything about his nature, all his characteristics point to him coming into his own beyond 2,000m.”
“However, the minute we tried to buy Giovanni Canaletto, it was to win one race only and that was the Hong Kong Derby. His form has always been strong, he was Coolmore’s best staying three-year-old, even better than their horse that won here [Highland Reel]. He ran fourth in the Epsom Derby, third in the Irish Derby and he probably would have won the St Leger but we wanted him here to win our Derby.”
Moreira is brimming with confidence after the slashing Classic Cup run and believes Giovanni Canaletto’s staying ability will be a positive, especially if it comes down to a slog in the straight.
“He’s a lovely horse, a real stayer and he is coming right at just the right time,” Moreira said. “It’s hard not to be full of excitement after his last run, it showed he was on track to win on the big day. I think we will try to give him a chance to balance up and hopefully they go hard enough that the best stayer in the field wins.”
WATCH: The official barrier draw for the Derby
Giovanni Canaletto geared up for tomorrow’s race with a lacklustre barrier trial at Sha Tin last week, but the trainer was quick to dismiss the effort: “He had never raced below a mile in Europe, so we never expected anything at all in his trials, both before he raced or last week. I saw what I needed. To me, his condition after the trial was perfect, he scoped perfectly and I know he’s a very fit horse.”
Cruz also saddles up French imports King Genki (Matthew Chadwick) and Green Dispatch (Vincent Ho Chak-yiu), both yet to show anything in their races and set to go around at mammoth prices.
“It’s been a rush with both of them but it’s a thrill to have a runner so to have three, it’s very exciting, both for me and the owners,” he said, even nominating a surprising goal for the pair – albeit a long way down the road. “King Genki trialled very nicely on the dirt a couple of weeks back, he was outpaced, he’s got no tactical speed but he found the line nicely. He’s looked a different horse in the mornings, so I’m happy with him going in, but 14 means Matthew Chadwick only has one option – go to the lead.
“And Green Dispatch, we’ve taken the blinkers off him – he hated them last time. He will also go forward. Actually, he’s another one who could be a dirt horse, he won on the polytrack in France and he’s from a dirt family. Who knows, maybe in time King Genki and Green Dispatch will be the next dirt stars in Hong Kong and could be flying the flag in Dubai.”