Tony Cruz celebrates his 1,500th Hong Kong victory with Brenton Avdulla. Photo by HKJC.

Tony Cruz notches 1,500th Hong Kong win as Beauty Joy lands G2 Chairman’s Trophy

HJKC Staff

HKJC Staff Member

08/04/2024

By Leo Schlink, for the HKJC.

 

Tony Cruz further cemented his place in Hong Kong racing’s firmament of stars by reaching the 1,500-win milestone as a trainer with Beauty Joy’s victory in the HK$5.35 million G2 Chairman’s Trophy (1600m) at Sha Tin on Sunday (7 April).

Cruz, 67, became only the third trainer to reach the towering 1,500-win landmark in Hong Kong behind John Moore (1,735) and John Size (1,534), having also ridden 946 wins in Hong Kong as a six-time champion jockey and dual champion trainer.

Revered for excellence and longevity, Cruz was among the first intake of apprentices into The Hong Kong Jockey Club’s Apprentice Jockeys’ School in 1972 before starring in Hong Kong aboard champions such as Co-Tack and overseas with Triptych.

Since retiring as a jockey and taking out a trainers’ license in 1996, Cruz has relentlessly pursued success at the highest level, producing three Hong Kong Horse of the Year winners – Silent Witness, Bullish Luck and Exultant – while building a stunning portfolio highlighted by Silent Witness’ Hong Kong record of 17 consecutive wins, and a string of Group 1 triumphs in the city.

Cruz has also prevailed at the highest level as a trainer abroad, striking twice at Group 1 level in Japan and again last month in Dubai with California Spangle in the G1 Al Quoz Sprint (1200m).

Crowned champion Hong Kong trainer in 1999/2000 and 2004/2005, Cruz said: “I’m very proud to be licensed by The Hong Kong Jockey Club for so many years. I’ve seen Hong Kong racing change so much over the years and I’m so lucky to be part of it.

“I was born and raised here. My Dad (Johnny) was a jockey. I was meant to be part of this racing game – to be a jockey and a trainer. The Hong Kong Jockey Club is one of the best places to train horses in the world. It’s an achievement in any trainer’s lifetime to make 1,500 winners.”

Cruz aims to bolster his collection of feature race wins when Beauty Joy tackles the HK$22 million FWD Champions Mile (1600m) at Sha Tin on 28 April after the gelding slotted his most important win in Hong Kong after a clinical ride by Brenton Avdulla.

“He’s never been an easy horse to ride and you need a top jockey on and Brenton was the man for the job today – he had a perfect race today. He’s always been a class horse, but difficult to ride in a race,” Cruz said after Beauty Joy finished strongly to down Beauty Eternal with Red Lion third in 1m 34.03s.

Avdulla, who has formed a powerful alliance with Cruz, said: “I think the barrier’s very important and probably a bit of rain in the ground, too. He was able to jump on terms and I was able to sort of hold my spot without using him too much, and it was probably the first time in a long time he hasn’t thrown his head, which is a bonus.”

Jumping smoothly, Beauty Joy tracked the leading division along the fence before fanning to the middle of the track in the straight and wearing down Beauty Eternal by one-and-a-quarter lengths with the same margin to Red Lion.

Referring to Cruz’s achievement, the Australian said: “He (Cruz) has always been a trainer or a jockey, he’s what everyone in Hong Kong aspires to be and he’s going to be a legend of the turf when we’re all gone in 100 years. He’s always going to be a part of history, so for me to link up with him in my first season, I owe him a lot. I’m very thankful.”

Cruz and Avdulla capped their Group 2 success with Californiatotality’s triumph in the Class 4 Plantation Handicap (1600m) on a memorable day for the duo.

Avdulla shared riding honours with compatriot Hugh Bowman, who scored with Lucky Sweynesse in the HK$5.35 million G2 Sprint Cup (1200m) for Manfred Man and Hasten Delight for Francis Lui in the second section of the Class 3 Barker Handicap (1200m).

Winner of four races in Australia for Peter Robl, the Star Turn gelding earned a HK$1.5 million PP Bonus after surging to a one and three-quarter length win at only his second Hong Kong start.

Winning Steps provided Pierre Ng with his 55th win of the season with victory under Matthew Poon in the Pollock Handicap (2000m) after Chris So-trained Master Of All broke through at his 11th start with victory in the Class 5 Severn Handicap (1400m) under Keith Yeung.

Derek Leung’s patience on Super Goldi provided decisive in the Class 4 Lugard Handicap (1400m) to give Frankie Lor his 30th win of the campaign before Full Credit blitzed his opposition with a five-and-a-quarter length victory under Lyle Hewitson in the Class 4 Homestead Handicap (1200m) for trainer Mark Newnham.

“He’s shown good ability from the time he’s started here. It was very impressive,” Newnham said. “I expected him to win, but I didn’t expect him to win like that. He’s improved a little bit each week.

“We’ve got lots of new horses like this and it’s just a matter of holding your nerve and being patient. The last thing you want to be is impatient because you can ruin a good horse before you make them a good horse.”

A masterful front-running ride by Alexis Badel enabled Danny Shum-trained Eighteen Carat to win the Class 3 Harlech Handicap (2000m).

Hong Kong racing continues at Happy Valley on Wednesday (10 April).

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