LEGENDARY trainer Tony Cruz produced a personal milestone at Sha Tin last Sunday when saddling his 1200th winner in Hong Kong.
The likeable and charismatic 62- year-old watched his International HK Vase victor Exultant follow up with an easy win in the G3 Centenary Vase, which puts him second behind John Moore in the all-time trainers’ list for winners.
Cruz, who also rode 946 winners as a jockey, is still hungry for more success, even after a 46-year career as both a jockey and trainer in the City.
At Happy Valley today, he saddles seven runners – notably top-weight and previous winner Super Chic in the 1.45pm and the well-handicapped Pakistan Baby – but the latter will have to overcome an awkward draw in the 11.45am.
However, his best chance of success comes in the 1.15pm, when he teams up again with Exultant’s winning jockey Zac Purton, who partners the progressive SMART LEADER over the extended mile.
This well-bred four-year-old, by Australian champion two-year-old Delago Deluxe, was a winner of three races in his native country, but has taken some time to acclimatise to conditions and his new surroundings.
He showed a glimmer of promise when staying on nicely behind subsequent winner King Opie last month, but then produced a performance full of promise when finishing strongly after being forced wide over seven furlongs earlier this month.
A recent winning trial should put him spot-on for this contest and from a draw which sets him up for a dream journey, over a trip which he will appreciate, he is going to be very hard to beat.
Smart Leader 1.15pm Happy Valley