Tony Cruz inherited his best sprinter from John Moore and now he might be off to the Hong Kong International Races with another of the legendary trainer’s former gallopers after Buddies’ big win at Sha Tin on Saturday.
Under a smart ride from Matthew Chadwick, the five-year-old dictated from the front to post an impressive win in the Class One Panasonic Cup (1,400m) and bring the Group One Hong Kong Mile into the frame.
“It looks like I have to [consider the Hong Kong Mile], what’s there to lose?” Cruz said of Buddies, whose rating will reach at least 110 after his second Class One success.
Along with Hong Kong Sprint-bound speedster Computer Patch, Buddies joined Cruz’s stable after Moore’s forced retirement at the end of last season and has now won two from three for his new handler.
After three of his first four victories came on the all-weather track, Buddies has proven himself to be a bona fide turf performer with three wins on the surface from his past six runs.
The son of So You Think did as he pleased in front on Saturday afternoon, clocking over a second outside standard for the first 1,000m before pinning his ears back in the final 400m to leave his rivals in his wake.
“I was expecting him to go to the front and dictate the race and he did exactly that,” Cruz said. “We always thought he had a great chance. It goes back to when John was training this horse, I remember he had an apprentice riding and he won in a very fast time.
“When the owners asked me if I’d like to train this horse I said ‘sure, I’d love to’ because what I saw was pretty impressive.”
Cruz was full of praise for his former apprentice Chadwick, the pair combining for a fourth success of the season after a lengthy winless run prior to this campaign.
“He’s a good front-running rider and he dictated the whole race. He definitely knows how to ride and whatever opportunity I can give him, I love to have him on my horses,” Cruz said.
Buddies finished a length clear of the John Size-trained Lucky Express, with Super Wealthy a quarter of a length further back in third.
The galloper has been exposed to open company once before – running fifth in the Group Three Celebration Cup (1,400m) in September – and Chadwick knows he’ll have to find another gear to be competitive at Group One level.
“He’s got a nomination for the Mile but he’s going to have to step-up again – he had a comfy time up front so I was able to let him do his own thing,” Chadwick said of Buddies, who was three and a half lengths off winner Golden Sixty in the Celebration Cup.
“I know you’ve got Golden Sixty, but Ka Ying Star and Beauty Generation are big boys, so he’s definitely going to have step-up.”
Cruz completed a double in the final event on the card, with Beauty Angel stringing together his fourth consecutive victory in the Class Three Panasonic Massage Lounger Handicap (1,800m) under Joao Moreira.
After failing to trouble the placings in his first eight starts and seeing his rating slide to 43, the International Sale Griffin has gone on a tear, running third in June before winning four on the trot to ensure he will now find himself on a mark near 70.