Zac Purton was adamant that what appeared a chivalrous act in the first 400m of the Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup did not cost Victory Magic a Group One as trainer Tony Cruz collected his fourth straight win in the race with Blazing Speed.
Winning jockey Neil Callan even remarked briefly on it in the post-race press conference, an incident passing the winning post the first time when Purton could have held him three wide but a gap opened, Blazing Speed slotted across into it and took the one by one trail.
Two minutes later, the pair went nose and nose to the wire at the finish of the race with the bob of the head coming down Blazing Speed’s way over Victory Magic (Purton) with odds-on favourite Werther (Hugh Bowman) the same margin away in third place after his rider said he failed to stay the 2,400m.
“I wouldn’t say I let him in,” said Purton. “My horse was comfortable where he was, the pace was starting to increase and John wanted me in that position and not as close as the last time he ran. For me to hold Neil out would have meant going forward half a length, he would have been tight between horses and he could have fired up and overraced.”
Callan said he was a little anxious at the time “waiting for Zac to come back and let me in, but the tempo of the race was just starting to open it up” and he found his slot.
“As he’s got older, he doesn’t grab the bit any more, he just relaxes into his rhythm,” Callan said. “When the pace lifted halfway round the last turn, he was so much more relaxed I had to give him a shake to get him going. But when I gave him one slap down the shoulder in the straight, I knew he’d give me everything to the line, win, lose or draw, he’d go out fighting – he did go out fighting but on the right hand.”
Cruz has now won the race with California Memory, Blazing Speed, Helene Super Star and Blazing Speed again in the past four runnings and plans to have the gelding back again next year.
“He’s a seven-year-old but I see him still going into next year,” Cruz said. “He’s easy to train, has a fantastic character to him. He has had his soundness issues before but the vets and my staff sorted him out and he’s been great since. He’ll be back for this race next year – we’ll keep going with him as long as the horse keeps going.”
Werther had been elevated to a rating as the world’s equal third-best horse after his comprehensive QE II Cup win in wet going but Bowman said it was the distance rather than the quicker ground which made the difference.
“You never come to the races taking a Group One win for granted so I’m disappointed we didn’t win but the horse wasn’t disappointing,” Bowman said. “He was a bit keen early then got a nice run, had room to move when I wanted it and I think the 2,400m just stretched him. He was just about going to beat Blazing Speed but I think when Victory Magic came up outside him the last stride or two, that just pushed the winner a little bit more.”
John Moore trained the next four placegetters after the winner, with Joao Moreira returning with a hard luck story on fourth-placed Designs On Rome.
“Joao just said that Zac’s whip knocked his whip out of his hand in the straight and we know Designs On Rome is a horse who responds to the whip – Joao thought it might have cost him the race,” said Moore.