CHAMPION jockey Tony Cruz will end his glittering 22-year career in the saddle early next year if the Licensing Committee of the Jockey Club next month approve his application to train next season. Earlier this month, the Licensing Committee called for local applicants to fill the position to be vacated at the end of this season by Australian Neville Begg and Cruz has put forward his name. The decision comes as no surprise to those closest to Hong Kong's greatest jockey who has fought recurring pain from a neck injury over the past few seasons. Cruz was reluctant to comment but made the decision to seek a trainer's licence after talks with his wife and members of his immediate family. He had said several times that it was his ultimate intention when giving up riding to train and the first step towards that objective has now been taken. Senior management of the Jockey Club will put forward their recommendations to the Licensing Committee and the enormous service that Cruz has done to Hong Kong racing both at home and overseas will weigh heavily in his favour. A senior Jockey Club official said: 'The Licensing Committee will decide on a management recommendation sometime in the middle of December but not before that.' Other applicants for the position include three recently retired local jockeys but none enjoys anything approaching the status of Cruz who became Hong Kong's roving racing ambassador midway through a glittering career that has brought him six championships and wins in every major race on the local calendar and numerous Group events overseas. If the Licensing Committee decide in favour of Cruz then the champion jockey is expected to officially finish his career in the early months of next year, probably after the Derby meeting on February 25. Cruz will be expected to join an overseas stable for some months before coming back to Hong Kong to take up his position officially next July. In the event of the application being granted, English racing headquarters at Newmarket and the stable of Henry Cecil, former British champion trainer, could be the favourite destination. However, Cruz does have a home in France and strong racing connections in that country, having ridden for the Aga Khan and other notable owners there. The Cruz family has very strong connections with local racing with Tony first going to Happy Valley when he was still in short pants to see father Johnny work horses in the morning. His father was an amateur jockey of note who won the Derby - a feat duly repeated by his son who has won it four times. Brother Derek Cruz was also a licensed jockey here but did not enjoy the same success as Tony and left for England where he was attached to several stables. He has held a Hong Kong trainer's licence for the past four seasons. If Cruz is licensed to train here he will follow a similar path to that of an earlier Hong Kong racing legend in Derek Cheng Tai-chee. Cheng ruled racing as champion jockey for years but with encroaching age and the demands of professional riding, he retired when given the chance to take out a trainer's licence. He joined overseas stables before returning to take out his first-season licence. Cruz was first licensed to ride in 1973 when he graduated from the first batch of apprentices at Beas River. He was indentured to Australian trainer Bob Burns and success was immediate and lasting. There have been a number of talented local riders to emerge in the intervening years but none has matched Cruz. It was now Sha Tin-based Patrick Biancone who first took real notice of his talent and brought him to Newmarket to ride Tryptych in the Champion Stakes. Cruz, the unknown from Hong Kong, won and success in Britain and Europe followed. He has ridden winners all over Europe and also in America. Cruz last year won back the jockeys' title from arch-rival Basil Marcus. He had last won it in 1985. Cruz and Marcus are currently atop the table with 17 winners each.