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Tony Cruz on brink of 1,500 Hong Kong wins after Sha Tin success

By: Leo Schlink   April 3 , 2024

Fresh from G1 Al Quoz Sprint (1200m) success in Dubai on Saturday (30 March) with California Spangle, Tony Cruz stands on the brink of another remarkable Hong Kong milestone after Monta Frutta`s breakthrough success at Sha Tin`s all-dirt meeting on Wednesday night (3 April).

Monta Frutta`s victory in the in the first section of the Class 4 Ting Kau Handicap (1200m) under Angus Chung left Cruz with a total of 1,499 Hong Kong wins as a trainer – a total bettered only by John Moore (1,735) and John Size (1,534).

Having won Hong Kong championships as an apprentice, senior jockey and trainer, Cruz is one of city`s most revered racing figures and, at 67, he has no intention of slowing down.

“Reaching 1,500 winners would be an accomplishment – every winner counts,” Cruz said. “As I like to say – the more, the merrier. I will try to win as many races as I can, that`s my job.

“This horse (Monta Frutta), I gave him some trials and I found he was very good on the dirt, so I`ve kept racing him on the dirt – he likes it more than the grass – and I think he can win again on the dirt.”

Cruz is one of several leading Hong Kong figures within reach of landmark figures, including Zac Purton (1,697), Caspar Fownes (1,098) and Ricky Yiu (994).

Size maintained hopes of a 13th Hong Kong trainers` championship after posting a double with Must Go and Bundle Of Charm. The Australian`s brace boosted his tally to 41 wins for the season to trail Pierre Ng (54) and Francis Lui (45) with 28 meetings left in the season.

“It`s always nice to win a race. I haven`t got many horses for the dirt track, but if they can win a race on it, well it`s a really good thing,” Size said after Bundle Of Charm landed the Class 2 Hong Kong Chinese Importers` & Exporters` Association 70th Anniversary Cup Handicap (1200m) for Alexis Badel.

“We`ll keep going and see what we can find for him (Bundle Of Charm). He`s been so honest and consistent this season that he`s handicapping himself out of a few races now. But he just keeps turning up so we`ll keep hoping.”

Badel said: “Great form, great performance – he`s been doing his very best recently. I was hoping he was going to give me another great performance and he did.

“He was a bit stiff not to win the Class 1 in Happy Valley because he had the advantage and he lost it on the line. That was a bit frustrating but today is a great victory and well deserved.”

Must Go struck for Size in the second section of the Class 4 Ting Kau Handicap (1200m) under Brenton Avdulla.

Karis Teetan slotted a double when Joyful Champion broke through at his 24th start for Michael Chang to claim the Class 5 Kap Shui Mun Handicap (1800m) before Mark Newnham`s Sing Dragon rallied strongly under the Mauritian to clinch the Class 3 Yau Kom Tau Handicap (1200m).

Chang made it 10 winners for the campaign with Ben Thompson`s ground-saving ride on Forever Folks in the Class 4 Stonecutters Island Handicap (1650m).

Super Joy ended a string of frustrating near-misses for trainer Cody Mo when the grey landed the Class 5 Sham Tseng Handicap (1200m) under Matthew Chadwick. Runner-up on four occasions this season over the course and distance, the Starcraft gelding avenged two narrow defeats with a short-head success over Daily Trophy.

Caspar Fownes posted his first win since 3 March with M Unicorn`s powerful finish in the Class 3 Rambler Handicap (1650m) under Keith Yeung.

Hong Kong racing continues at Sha Tin on Sunday (7 April) with the running of the HK$5.35 million G2 Sprint Cup (1200m) and HK$5.35 million G2 Chairman`s Trophy (1600m).

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