Luke Ferraris will be hoping he can continue to foster his relationship with Tony Cruz after delivering the goods for the legendary trainer aboard Campione in the Class Three Kwai Shing Handicap (1,200m) at Sha Tin on Sunday.
Cruz has provided Ferraris with six of his past 14 rides and the young South African jockey could have a horse worth sticking with in Italian import Campione, who bravely fought off the strong late finish of favourite Beauty Mission by a short-head.
An exuberant front-runner, Campione was unbeaten as a juvenile in his native country and this win on only his second Hong Kong start pleased Cruz.
“From the first run to the second run he’s definitely improving and he was the youngest horse in the field,” Cruz said. “I’m sure a young horse like that will have a bright future and he’ll keep on improving. This win will give him a lot of confidence.”
Cruz was delighted that Campione displayed the right attitude to go along with his ability but admitted he was unsure of quite what to expect performance-wise from his new recruit.
“He’s one of the best character horses you could find in Hong Kong,” Cruz said. “He’s a darling of a horse to ride in the morning, he’ll do whatever you want him to do and he’ll always try his best. He’s got a very good heart.
“After watching the videos of how he performed in Italy, it looks like there is no opposition for two-year-olds but it’s very hard to judge them at the age of two because you don’t know how they can train on. I think this one is training on and he’s got a bright future.”
Campione’s victory means that he’ll now be going up in grade but Cruz has no lofty targets in mind at present.
“After this he’ll get a promotion, so he’ll keep going and carry on into Class Two over 1,200m,” Cruz said.
Favourite Beauty Mission’s trainer Frankie Lor Fu-chuen may have been disappointed to be touched off by Campione but he more than made up for that by landing the last two races on the card.
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Lor first got his own back on a short-priced favourite when My Ecstatic easily won the first section of the Class Four Shek Wai Kok Handicap (1,400m), with market leader Oriental Smoke beaten three and a quarter lengths into third after being sent off the $1.5 favourite.
The day was shaping up to be a disappointing one for favourite backers with Beauty Fit, Light My Day, Beauty Mission, Country Treasure, Copartner Ambition and Oriental Smoke all beaten at odds of $2.7 or shorter but Lor made sure punters finished on a high when Beauty Live won the second section of the Class Four Lai King Handicap (1,400m).
Given a good ride by Joao Moreira, who was happy to stalk the pace before shooting past the front-runners in the straight, Beauty Live was Lor’s 58th winner of the season and he is now just three behind John Size in the race for the trainers’ championship.