Tony Cruz has not given up hope of Time Warp gaining a start in the Group One Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup and will write a letter to the Jockey Club to try and overturn a stewards embargo on the horse.
The two-time Group One winner finished last when favourite in the QE II Cup on April 29 with stewards deeming the effort “unacceptable”, requiring him to perform to their satisfaction in a trial before being allowed to race again.
Time Warp did not pass that condition in a 1,200m hit-out on the all-weather track on Friday and he does not have the option of trialling again before declarations are taken on Thursday morning, frustrating the trainer.
“Time Warp was never, ever a dirt horse. To do a test like this on a Group One horse you’ve got to have a proper barrier trial on the grass for him. The situation was not in his favour,” Cruz said.
The career of Pakistan Star has been one twist after another, but he prevails on the biggest stage today as he takes the #QEIICup by a big margin for William Buick and Tony Cruz. Gold Mount second, Eagle Way third in a 1-2-3 for Hong Kong #HKChampionsDay #HKRacing pic.twitter.com/lbHkYeFjHG— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) April 29, 2018
“The reason why they did the barrier trial was because he did not perform last start – and when he did not perform after the race we scoped him and found that he had mucus. Mucus stops horses from performing – they can’t breathe properly.
“The criteria for the barrier trial is that he has to be within 10 lengths and he finished 11-and-a-quarter lengths behind and they failed him. The most important part is the veterinary side and when we scoped him afterwards he was clean.
“This is a Group One race and this horse has won two important races and I’m sure he can win this race. And if he wins, he could be Horse of the Year too.”
While Cruz mounts his case for Time Warp, Jockey Club chief steward Kim Kelly is standing firm.
“The fact of the matter is when they are barred for a poor performance they’ve got to trial competitively to show the public they are going to be competitive at their next start,” Kelly said.
“It weakened badly in the straight and finished second-last, beaten over 11 lengths and only beat one horse home. That’s not competitive.
“Whilst we feel for the connections and can appreciate the position they’re in, we’ve also got to think of the punters and look after their interests equally.
“They go into these things knowing what the expectations are of the stewards – that it needs to be competitive – and if it can’t be, then for the good of the punters and maybe even the horse himself, he’s got to wait until he can trial competitively.”
If Time Warp does not take his place, there will be just five runners competing in Sunday’s HK$10 million feature.
Of the other six local entrants, Rocketeer is ineligible after changing stables on Thursday while trainer John Moore confirmed Helene Charisma would run over 1,800m at Happy Valley on Wednesday night and won’t back up.
That leaves Cruz’s trio of QE II Cup winner Pakistan Star, Exultant and Gold Mount, while Moore has last year’s third placegetter Eagle Way.
The only international raider saddling up is Ralph Beckett’s Chemical Charge, who finished fourth in December’s Hong Kong Vase over the same 2,400m trip and arrived at Sha Tin on Sunday night.
Meanwhile, the stewards were kept busy with a host of suspensions as Umberto Rispoli, Alvin Ng Ka-chun and Eddy Lai Wai-ming were outed for two days, while Matthew Poon Ming-fai copped a four-meeting ban for careless riding on Winning Supreme.