He has a stable full of gun horses but master trainer Tony Cruz has admitted that he especially likes working with Ka Ying Star as he prepares the gelding for Sunday’s Group Three Lion Rock Trophy (1,600m).
Cruz, who is targeting Ka Ying Star at the Longines Hong Kong Mile on international day in December, says the four-year-old is a dream to train.
“He’s a very quiet horse, he’s got a very good character about him. In his box he’s like a baby, you can pinch him, do anything to him, he’s so friendly and a good natured horse,” Cruz said.
“Not like those horses that like to bite or kick you, nothing like that, he’s very friendly. He loves to see you and he won’t harm you.”
After placing at 1,600m and 1,800m in the four-year-old series, Ka Ying Star faded into 10th over the 2,000m trip of the Derby and Cruz is confident he now knows what is best for the horse.
“He’s really a miler, that’s all. We tried stretching him but he can’t get the distance, as we saw in the Derby,” he said.
Both of Ka Ying Star’s wins have come at the mile and he was impressive when saluting at the distance last time out under regular jockey Vincent Ho Chak-yiu, who is again in the saddle on Sunday.
Cruz is confident his charge can give a good showing in his first appearance at Group level but knows a wet track could throw a spanner in the works should the rain hang around.
“I just hope it is going to be a good track, good to firm, that will suit him better,” Cruz said. “The same conditions as last time and I’ll be very confident because he’s very well.
“I’m very happy with him. There has been no setbacks with him, everything in training has been very smooth.
“He wasn’t impressive in the trial because it was a rain-affected trial, but I think he is fit and ready. He’s an improving horse.”
Ka Ying Star will no doubt be looking to go forward in the race and another horse likely to race prominently is Simply Brilliant, who enters the contest on the back of a solid third behind Beauty Generation in the Group One FWD Champions Mile.
The five-year-old won at this level in the January Cup and trainer Frankie Lor Fu-chuen thinks he is a better horse now, but he is another keeping a close eye on the weather.
“He can handle the yielding, but if it keeps raining I don’t know if the track will be heavy or not,” Lor said.
“After two or three wins this season he looked like he was going to stay there and we just kept training him and he improved again.”
Like Ka Ying Star, Mission Tycoon featured prominently in the four-year-old series – finishing second in the Classic Mile and winning the Classic Cup – and jockey Grant van Niekerk hopes the horse has something left in the tank.
“I think he’s got a chance, his last run was pretty good,” Van Niekerk said of Mission Tycoon, who jumps from barrier three.
“He has run some pretty good races and it’s coming to the end of the season and they have probably just about had enough now, but I worked him yesterday and he felt pretty good.”