Tony Cruz admits two-time Group One winner Time Warp’s best days are likely behind him but remains confident that if the six-year-old gets his own way he can be right in the finish in Sunday’s Group Three Premier Plate (1,800m) at Sha Tin.
After winning at Group Three level early in the season and finishing third in December’s Group One Longines Hong Kong Cup, Time Warp’s form has dipped considerably, with his lead-at-all-costs racing style failing to deliver results.
“He’s been pretty disappointing, he’s not finishing his races properly,” Cruz said. “There is nothing wrong with him, he had some sore joints in the past and we did medicate his joints so he has got to prove himself again.
“But there is no excuse for him. He’s got to have his own way and if he does have his own way I think he should be right there in the finish.”
While Time Warp has often had competition for the lead in recent starts – largely from brother Glorious Forever – he could get an easy time of it on Sunday.
Barrier nine won’t help Time Warp’s cause however Insayshable – one of only a couple that could look to go forward – is drawn outside him in 11.
“I believe he is going to run a big race this time, 1,800m is really his pet distance,” Cruz said. “He’s a one-paced, one-action horse and I think a good-to-firm track should suit him.”
What the future holds for Time Warp is uncertain and while Cruz says “he has to run a big race otherwise he is in serious trouble”, at only six it would seem the gelding has more to give, if not at the top level.
“I’m going to run him at shorter distances [next season], 1,800m is more his distance and Happy Valley even,” Cruz said.
“But his handicap  is so high there is no race for him – he always has to compete with the best horses and I don’t think he’s in that category any more.”
Matthew Poon Ming-fai rides Time Warp on Sunday, becoming the fifth jockey to do so this season, and Cruz said the 23-year-old has “got to find the right key to him”.
Working in Poon’s favour is the fact the last Group race of the season looks to lack depth, with Rise High, Simply Brilliant, Citron Spirit among his opponents.
Rise High received rave reviews from trainer Caspar Fownes after rattling home for second behind Exultant in last month’s Group One Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup (2,400m).
Fownes said then that Rise High is a “a Group One horse now” and even considered taking the five-year-old to Japan for this weekend’s Takarazuka Kinen, however entries were closed.
While Rise High must contend with a considerable step back in distance on Sunday, the gelding’s four Hong Kong wins have been at a mile and he should be able to handle the 1,800m.
Simply Brilliant has won at the distance in Group Three company this season – albeit at Happy Valley – and may appreciate a return to the trip.