Tony Cruz picked up yesterday where he left off almost six years ago with a thrilling win on his return to race riding in Melbourne. Cruz, 44, evoked memories of his heyday as one of the world's greatest riders as he took the Emirates Airlines Legends race at Flemington with a characteristic late surge to snatch victory from the grasp of English great Lester Piggott. 'It's been almost six years, but it feels as good as ever to ride a winner. It's great to be back,' said Cruz, speaking by mobile phone shortly before he flew back to Hong Kong last night. The exhibition race brought together some of the great jockeys of yesteryear and was Cruz's first race ride since he signed off his illustrious career on New Year's Day 1996 with an emotional five-length victory aboard Super Team at Sha Tin. Of his half-length victory on Mondial in the 800-metre event, the champion jockey turned champion trainer said: 'I got a good horse, he was very fit. I was squeezed out at the start and was a bit further back than I hoped, but it doesn't matter now because I won. I settled in midfield, about five or six lengths off the leader, and I gradually got closer and closer.' Cruz, who was receiving 21 years from Piggott, has been riding trackwork at Sha Tin for the past five weeks, but he admitted the race had been tough after his years out of the saddle. 'I wasn't fit enough, that's for sure. You don't notice it in the race, but I was breathing pretty hard when I pulled up because I had been pushing and pushing to get my horse up to win. I definitely could have been fitter and it would have helped if I could have ridden in a barrier trial in Hong Kong before I left, but the Jockey Club wouldn't let me. Riding trackwork is one thing, but a race is much tougher.' But a delighted Cruz is keen to do it all again. 'I'll have to come back next year to defend my title. It's been great to race against these guys again and it's given me a great incentive to get myself fit again,' said Cruz, who is also keen to compete next year in a similar event in Cologne, Germany. He was invited to that race this year but turned down the organisers because the distance was 2,200 metres and he felt he did not have enough time to get in shape for such a gruelling event. Cruz, the greatest jockey produced by Hong Kong, had to give up race riding at the age of 39 due to the cumulative effect of the serious injuries he suffered during his 23-year career. He won the jockeys' championship six times and the Derby on four occasions, as well achieving fame and fortune with big-race successes in England, France and the United States. Since turning to training, he has won another championship in the 1999-2000 season, but he had not ridden a horse until he accepted the offer to ride in the Legends race and started riding at morning trackwork in late September. Along with Cruz and nine-time English Derby winner Piggott, the Legends race also featured seven-time Hong Kong champion Gary Moore and New Zealand rider Brent Thomson, another former Hong Kong favourite. Thomson came in third, while Moore, now a trainer in Macau, finished seventh. England's Geoff Lewis was fourth, with 1987 Melbourne Cup-winning jockey Larry Olsen fifth, Linda Jones of New Zealand sixth and Australia's Bob Skelton, who won the Melbourne Cup in 1976 and took the inaugural Legends race last year, in last place. Cruz had cause for double celebration yesterday as he also enjoyed success on the training front at Sha Tin with D'Or Win - an aptly named winner on a golden day. Like Mondial, D'Or Win got up on the line under Cruz's stable jockey Felix Coetzee to score a nose victory in the seventh race.