Tony Cruz has declared Exultant the best stayer he’s ever trained after going back-to-back in Sunday’s Group One Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup (2,400m) at Sha Tin.
The Hong Kong legend has a stunning record in the final Group One of the season – he now has 10 Champions & Chater Cups to his credit – with three victories as a jockey while he has seven of the past eight winners as a trainer.
“I’ve had a bit of luck,” a modest Cruz said.
There are some famous names on the honour board in that streak including California Memory, Blazing Speed (twice), Helene Super Star and Pakistan Star – but Cruz believes Exultant, who has five Group Ones under his belt, sits above them.
“I think he’s the best stayer of them all,” Cruz said. “It’s simply his attitude.
“The relationship between the jockey and horse is fantastic. Zac [Purton] can easily relax the horse and that’s why he won.
“He runs [2,400m] and he could go two miles [3,200m] easily too.”
Exultant jumped the $1.50 favourite and proved himself the toughest horse in Hong Kong again – holding off Chefano and stablemate Furore to take the HK$10 million feature for the second straight year.
“Exultant seemed to be racing a bit too keenly [early], but in the back straight he tucked in behind the leader and got some cover and relaxed,” Cruz said.
“The pressure came on a bit early but a true stayer would stay the distance and Exultant was fit enough to win the race.”
Purton felt there were challenges in the run, but the best horse came out on top.
“It’s never easy in small fields when you’re on the favourite, everyone goes out there to make your life difficult and they tried to do that again but fortunately for me, I’m on a horse that can absorb some pressure and still be able to fight out the finish,” he said.
“I was out on my feet at the 200m but I felt today like he was waiting for them a little bit more – he’s become a little more cunning – and when they were coming I could feel him start to surge again.”
Like Cruz, Purton believes Exultant is the best stayer he’s ridden in Hong Kong.
“His record will tell you that. There’s no tougher horse I’ve ridden than this guy,” the three-time champion jockey said. “He’s not flash in anything he does but he just gets the job done. He probably deserves a little more credit than what he’s given.”
There is a big chance the six-year-old is rewarded with some more accolades, the result putting him firmly in the frame to be named Hong Kong Horse of the Year.
Exultant has now won two Group Ones, a Group Two and a Group Three this term while also adding two Group One placings and a Group Three third to his record.
“He hasn’t run a bad race,” Cruz said. “I think he has the best performances of the season and he’s entitled to win.”
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