Tony Cruz wasn’t at Happy Valley on Wednesday night but he stole the show anyway, landing a superb treble.
The trainer will be back on course at Sha Tin on Sunday after receiving his second Covid-19 vaccination and he heads into Classic Mile weekend with his team in flying form.
Cruz’s hat-trick was kicked off by the win of More Than Enough in the Class Four Lyttelton Handicap (1,650m). He was given a great ride by Karis Teetan, who judged the fractions perfectly from the front to hold off the strong late challenge of Bulletproof.
The second leg of Cruz’s treble came when Circuit Booming, who also brought up a double for Zac Purton, swooped late to nail long-time leader Mega Bonus to land an incident-packed Class Four Kotewall Handicap (1,200m).
Jockey Dylan Mo Hin-tung was fortunately able to walk away from a fall early in the race but was taken to hospital for observation with a suspected toe injury. His mount Make It Quick was humanely euthanised.
Circuit Seven rounded off the Cruz treble when winning the tightest finish of the night in the Class Four Hatton Handicap (1,000m).
Making all the running under Matthew Poon Ming-fai, Circuit Seven went clear in the straight but had just enough in the tank to hold off Forte by a shorthead with Pretty Queen Prawn a further shorthead behind in third.
There were some quick times on show at the Valley and the meeting got off to a flying start when Stoltz broke the 1,000m record at the course when landing the Class Three Babington Handicap.
The Australian import, who posted a time of 55.85 seconds to beat Harmony N Blessed’s previous mark by 0.13 of a second, blitzed his rivals to win by an impressive two lengths in first-time cheekpieces.
Rated 70, Stoltz will now be on the verge of a move into Class Two but the manner of this victory suggests he could be more than capable of holding his own in that company.
Stoltz’s trainer Francis Lui Kin-wai was quick to praise Poon, who had been on board the sprinter in his previous two starts.
“The last two runs, after the race [Poon] told me that when he hit the front, the horse just waited and looked. That’s why we put the cheekpieces on. This horse is actually easy to ride and he can sit in a good position,” Lui said.
Lui also had news on superstar Golden Sixty, whose 16-race winning streak was ended by Waikuku in the Stewards’ Cup last weekend.
“He seems OK after the race, he seems the same. He’s healthy. I’ll give him another barrier trial before I decide on his next run,” Lui said.
There was a titanic battle up the Happy Valley straight to find the winner of the Class Three Conduit Handicap (1,650m).
Leap Of Faith beat home the topweight Maldives by a shorthead with the pair pulling a long way clear of their rivals.
Jockey Vagner Borges has struck up a good relationship with John Size this season, with Leap Of Faith the Brazilian’s 11th winner of the season to be trained by Size.
Matthew Chadwick is up to 25 winners for the season after landing a double. Chadwick won the closing race, the Class Three Breezy Handicap (1,200m), aboard the improving Rewarding Together after earlier being successful on the consistent V Chevaliers in the second section of the Class Four Lyttelton Handicap (1,650m).