Master handler Tony Cruz has thrown his cards down for December’s Hong Kong International Races and revealed two aces after landing the quinella with Furore and Exultant in Sunday’s Group Three Sa Sa Ladies’ Purse (1,800m).
The veteran was bullish, even with the scratching of stable stalwart Time Warp on race morning, and his faith was rewarded with Furore showing a devastating turn of foot which had not been sighted since his slashing win in the 2019 Hong Kong Derby (2,000m).
Reigning Horse of the Year Exultant cast an ominous shadow over his rivals with an eye-catching second, almost pinching the race despite carrying the top weight of 133 pounds in his first run since May.
“Obviously I thought he was going to win today, he was pretty good,” Cruz said of Furore, who he acquired from rival Frankie Lor Fu-chuen midway through last season.
“I thought his first start was good, he was motoring home. Many people didn’t notice but it was much too short for him 1,600m – 1,800m today was better for him so I thought we would win this race.”
While the pair will split come grand final day with Furore aimed at the Group One Hong Kong Cup (2,000m) and Exultant aimed at the Vase (2,400m), they will clash again in the Group Two Jockey Club Cup (2,000m) on November 22 in what is the final lead-up day to December’s showcase.
“His next race will be in the [Jockey Club Cup], Exultant and Furore will clash again and I reckon Furore would still have a great chance,” Cruz said.
After rivals Chefano and Southern Legend set a solid tempo through the early sections of the contest, Exultant looked a likely winner early in the straight after comfortably tracking the speed before Joao Moreira peeled out on Furore from midfield.
“I thought Exultant was almost going to win for a moment but then I saw Furore charging and I knew he was home,” Cruz said.
“Joao knew he had won the race on the turn, that’s what the jockeys can feel, they know when they’re going to win.”
While having it all to do, Moreira’s confidence built throughout the race despite it being his first ride on the six-year-old.
“He won very impressively, he won with something left in the tank and it looks like there is a future with him,” he said.
“I was confident from the 500m mark because he was travelling well underneath me and when I angled him out he gave me a nice kick.
“From there on, I knew I was going to be hard to beat. Those good horses give those feels to jockeys and he has proven that to me.”
Furore now shapes as Moreira’s Jockey Club Cup mount – and potentially his Hong Kong Cup mount if he performs well in the Group Two.
“Nothing has been confirmed, I will speak to Tony and the next race is in three weeks – if he wants me to ride him, I will be happy to,” he said.
After weighing in 40 pounds heavier than his last race start, Cruz thinks Exultant will appreciate the run and come back in better shape as he targets a second Hong Kong Vase victory.
“Today was much too short for Exultant so I think over more ground he will be a great chance,” he said.
“As he gets older you can notice his weight getting up, that’s the only thing I worry about but today he showed he still has speed.”
Despite scratching him from Sunday’s contest after knocking his leg, Cruz also expects three-time Group One winner Time Warp to line up in the Jockey Club Cup on November 22.