Hometown heroes in championship charge

Robin Parke

LOCAL idol Tony Cruz barnstormed back to the top of the jockeys' championship when he rode half the card at Happy Valley last night.

Cruz chalked up a winning treble on Able Ride (9-2) in the opening event and then partnered the Peter Ng Bik-kuen gallopers Golden Emperor (3-1 favourite) and Fantastic Flyer (5-1) to victory in the fourth and final events respectively.

Cruz back at the top of the table is no surprise as he is a rider of tremendous ability but trainer Ng last night carved out his own small piece of local racing history by going to the top of his championship table.

He has saddled up an amazing 21 winners and is now equal with defending champion John Moore, Patrick Biancone and another local hero in Derek Cruz.

Tony Cruz now has 28 winners, two ahead of French star Gerald Mosse, without a win last night, and he is clearly going to battle to the line for the title.

With the recent split from brother Derek, it looked likely that Cruz would face an uphill battle without a major stable behind him.

But he has knuckled down with fierce determination, rides more horses in the mornings than before and is available to virtually any trainer.

The cheers of the midweek crowd were ringing again in his ears when Fantastic Flyer burst through in the final 100 metres to win the Class Two, 1,650-metre nightcap.

He saw off topweight Diamond Forever (7-2 favourite) who was also given every assistance from the saddle. But Mosse, on the Biancone-trained public elect, could only get Diamond Forever into second place past interesting newcomer Survey King (40-1).

A beaming Ng escorted his landmark winner back to scale and said: ''I can't ask for much more. My horses are running really well and I have never experienced a run like this in my career before.'' It was a top training feat with Golden Emperor who had been off the scene for three months and looked to be in need of the run.

But in a roughly run race he got the better of luckless Silver Arrow (7-2) who was bumped and buffeted in the straight.

Alan Munro lodged an objection against second-placed House Honour (18-1) following a protracted scrimmage at the 100-metre mark. But Purple Gold (18-1) on his inside had also come off a straight line and the Stewards overruled the objection.

But English ace Munro tasted better luck in other races and was back among the winners with a 72-1, back-to-back double.

He took the second race on Valiant Lancer (12-1) with the Alex Wong Siu-tan runner coming through smoothly to easily account for odds-on favourite Amazing Grace (9-5) in the Classes Two and Three, 2,230-metre event.

Munro conjured up the best run yet in the modest career of Class Six galloper Sparkling Night (6-1) in the third event.

Hard-ridden from the top of the straight, the Derek Cruz-trained six-year-old finally got it right and was going away on the line from bottomweight Super Win II (12-1), ridden by Tony Cruz.