Tony Cruz has always had Winner’s Way pegged as a top-tier miler and on Saturday the classy chestnut confirmed his trainer’s assessment and booked a late season big-race assignment.
Winner’s Way will head to the Group Three Premier Plate on June 25 after going back-to-back and showing some grit to go with his undoubted class when saluting as a long odds-on favourite in a 1,400m Class One.
“I always expected him to be up there this season,” Cruz said of a four-year-old that has won two of three since failing to get the trip in February’s Hong Kong Classic Cup.
“1,800m was too much for him but don’t forget that before that, over a mile in the Classic Mile, he beat Pakistan Star home. I think next season he will be one of the good milers and I think the jockey is making a big difference.”
The jockey is man of the moment Zac Purton, who had five on the day, and got his first feel of Winner’s Way in the dominant last start victory at Happy Valley.
With a seven-runner field, the speed map looked relatively straight forward, but Purton had to have his wits about him early when Karis Teetan pulled a surprise move and took hold on expected leader Pablosky.
“That was a surprise, but in saying that, the two runners to my inside, Eroico and Lucky Year, didn’t make it easy, they kept digging up, they set the tone with the tempo,” said Purton, who pushed on to lead on a track that looked a little worse for wear.
“What I learned on him at Happy Valley is that when he gets to a spot you just have to let him flow.”
The on-pace style will clearly help the son of Starcraft when he does make the leap into black type races, and Purton said there was still some upside for a horse that has now won four and placed twice from nine starts for Cruz.
“He still does a little bit wrong too, he cocks his head to one side, and he got a little bit off balance in the straight, so there is something there to work with,” he said.
Purton and Cruz also combined to win with King Genki, before Magical Beauty gave Cruz a treble when he defied his poor record in Class Three and gave Kei Chiong Ka-kei a second winner for the stable this season.
The five-year-old had been racing in consistent form but Cruz said his record of one from 30 in the grade had him worried, and that the state of the track probably helped the gelding.
“You can see how much the track slowed down during the day, he’s run 1:22 before, and they ran 1:23.22 today,” he said. “The track was softer after the rain, but they also didn’t go fast in the lead and he is a horse that definitely needs everything possible his way when he is up in this grade.”