Classic double stretches Cruz's lead in title race

TONY Cruz moved further clear at the top of the jockeys' championship table and Brian Kan Ping-chee underlined his determination to clinch a fifth Derby when Happy Guy squeezed home in yesterday's Hongkong Classic Trial.

Happy Guy had a neck to spare over the gallant Deerfield when completing the double for Cruz which had been effortlessly initiated by Star Of Marble in opener. Cruz has now ridden 33 winners and is four clear of Gerald Mosse.

Kan also sent out Right Way, ridden by stable jockey Felix Coetzee, to run third. He was a further length and a half away, just holding off the late burst of Patrick Biancone's Charming Talker who gave notice that he will be a major force on Derby Day on March 7.

''I will almost certainly ride Happy Guy in the Derby,'' said Cruz. ''But I'm a bit worried about the trip for him.

''He gave me the impression that today's mile is his ideal distance. Over the extra ground he could find a couple of others out-staying him.

''Deerfield looks the one we all have to beat.'' Deerfield will definitely go into the Blue Riband event in three weeks time carrying a bounty of public money.

He captured racing's imagination with three glorious victories last season and looks to be on the way back.

But that man Biancone, so often the trainer for the big occasion back in Europe where he mustered over 30 Group One victories, must be given plenty of respect.

His Charming Talker had not been as impressive in his work going into yesterday's Derby trial as the likes of Right Way and Deerfield.

Biancone has said for over 12 months that he would be his Derby horse and that he would nearly win.

Yesterday's effort from Charming Talker vindicated his every word. Nothing was running on better to the line than the son of Great Charmer who was still on the bit when meeting a bit of interference on the bottom bend.

He races much more in the mould of a stayer than any of his rivals from yesterday and is the horse who will benefit most from the extra 200 metres of the Derby.

''Everything is going to plan,'' smiled Biancone after racing. ''He has run well and he has come home sound.'' Defending champion jockey Basil Marcus kept his name on the scoresheet with a fine ride on Gary Ng Ting-keung's E Treasure to take the final event by a short head and the same from Timah and the improving Crown Commander. But Marcus is 10 winners behind Cruz.