Tony Cruz took out this year’s Classic Cup with California Spangle and he already has his eyes on next season’s four-year-old series after the victory of Beauty Charge at Sha Tin on Sunday.
The three-year-old produced a booming finish under Matthew Chadwick to come from the back of the field and win the Class Three Stevenson Cup (1,200m) in only his second Hong Kong start.
A winner of one of his two starts in Ireland pre-import, the youngster did things in some style when coming from the rear to pass most of his rivals in the home straight and win by three-quarters of a length.
A satisfied Cruz was only too happy to talk about targeting some big races.
“Definitely, for sure,” Cruz said when asked if Beauty Charge would head towards the Classic Series.
“He’s definitely an improving horse, as you can see. He had only two starts overseas and this is only his second start in Hong Kong and he’s definitely improved from his first start.
“I’ve got high expectations of this horse and I expected him to perform today and the public all knew exactly how good this horse is.”
Beauty Charge’s win was a 54th winner of the season for Chadwick, who is drawing ever nearer to picking up the Tony Cruz Award for leading local rider.
Heading into the final two meetings of the season, the 31-year-old remains five clear of Vincent Ho Chak-yiu and seven ahead of Derek Leung Ka-chun.
It was a good afternoon for Cruz, who also picked up the most valuable race on the card when Circuit Stellar took out the Class Two Chow Silver Plate (1,400m)
Another Irish import from the yard of Classic-winning trainer Joseph O’Brien, the four-year-old has produced a string of consistent efforts in the city and he got a well-deserved reward when fighting off the challenge of favourite Keefy in the home straight to win by a neck.
The win again advertised the talents of Luke Ferraris, who has been on the receiving end of some praise from Cruz over recent weeks.
This victory was the young South African rider’s 17th winner of the season and his fifth for the legendary trainer and the combination could well be one to keep a close eye on next season.
Circuit Stellar’s victory came at the expense of the Frankie Lor Fu-chuen favourite Keefy, who had been well supported into $2.7 to give his trainer a first winner of the meeting.
So while Lor drew a blank for the first time in five meetings, he will have been relieved that his championship rival John Size was also out of luck as he attempted to close the gap on his former assistant.
The closest Size came to picking up a much-needed winner was with Shining Fortune, who finished third behind newcomer Universal Horizon in the Class Four Li Cup (1,200m).
A winless meeting for both championship contenders leaves Lor still six clear of Size with just two fixtures of the season remaining.