Tony Cruz is ready to lay it all on the line in the fight for the trainers’ title at Sha Tin on Sunday, declaring he’ll need “at least three winners” to keep his chances of collecting a third championship alive.
Cruz trails leader Ricky Yiu Poon-fai’s 64 winners by three with two meetings remaining, while Francis Lui Kin-wai sits second on 63.
The trio is throwing the kitchen sink at the premiership this weekend, with Yiu saddling up 13 runners, Cruz 10 and Lui eight.
“Obviously it’s my last chance, I think Sunday will be the deciding factor as to whether I’ve got a chance or not,” Cruz said. “I need to pull a few winners off to be in with a chance – I’ll need at least three winners.”
Cruz is represented in 10 of the 11 races on Sunday’s card, with the 63-year-old earmarking Transcendent as one of his better chances in the Class Two Hong Kong Racehorse Owners Association Trophy (1,400m).
After turning heads with an impressive debut victory in Class Three, the four-year-old has been largely disappointing since, finishing third in his first attempt in Class Two before reeling off four inconsistent runs.
Transcendent did win a trial in impressive fashion a fortnight ago, however, and Cruz expects him to perform strongly over seven furlongs despite never finishing better than 10th at the distance in Hong Kong.
“He’s come on very well, this is the best I’ve ever seen him,” the veteran trainer said. “The 1,400m is perfect for him and I think he’s got a chance.”
Transcendent will be ridden by Matthew Chadwick and has drawn barrier 12 for what shapes as a willing contest featuring the likes of Super Oasis, Mongolian King and Water Diviner.
Cruz sends Helene Leadingstar around in the day’s marquee race – the Class One Sha Tin Mile Trophy (1,600m) – and goes in with some confidence despite the five-year-old’s best performances coming over further ground.
“There’s nowhere to run him, he’s got limited options but Joao Moreira is riding him so he’s still in with a shot I believe,” Cruz said.
Cruz’s hand features a host of in-form runners, with Flying Sword looking to make it consecutive victories in the Class Three Pingwu Spark Handicap (1,400m) and Smart Leader, Circuit Hassler and Circuit Number One heading into their respective contests on the back of last-start seconds.
After fetching HK$11 million to become the most expensive horse ever sold at a Hong Kong International Sale, Circuit Number One has been nothing short of a disappointment for owners.
But despite going winless through his first 12 starts and winning barely more than half a million in prize money, the gelding did seem to appreciate the 1,800m when second last time out and Cruz gives him some chance over the same trip in the Class Four Solar Hei Hei Handicap.
“I’m sure he can eventually do something in Class Four, his last run was pretty good and he didn’t have the perfect race – if he had the perfect race he should have won,” Cruz said of the 44-rated galloper, who got within two points of dropping to Class Five before his runner-up effort earlier this month.