Trainer Tony Cruz prepared his second feature race trifecta in a week at Sha Tin today (Sunday, 3 June) as The Golden Age led home stablemates Beauty Only and Romantic Touch to take the Group 3 Lion Rock Trophy Handicap (1600m).
Just last Sunday (26 May), Cruz saddled up Pakistan Star, Exultant and Gold Mount to finish one-two-three in the Group 1 Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup (2400m).
“What a result for the stable, it’s always great to win these big races and we’ve got some nice horses at the moment,” Cruz said.
While 2.5 favourite The Golden Age (115lb) didn’t carry the same weight of public expectation as his illustrious barnmate Pakistan Star last weekend, it was just as easy a watch for his backers as the chestnut made most under Joao Moreira. Leading at comfortable fractions, Moreira opened up the four-year-old at the top of the straight, putting a big margin on his rivals and never looking in doubt.
Beauty Only (130lb) made ground down the centre from near the tail to grab second, a length and three-quarters behind The Golden Age, while Romantic Touch (116lb) stayed on to hold down third, a further three-quarters of a length away.
“When a horse is carrying a light weight like he was today, and when he’s already known as a front-runner, it was a straightforward decision to press towards the lead,” Moreira said.
“He was always going to be hard to run down once he got there, too. There was one moment early where he hopped a little bit and it took me some time to balance him up, but once he found his rhythm, he gave me a nice feel.
“He gave a great kick into the straight, I let him stride out and he felt beautiful. He really responded like a nice horse, and the best part is, he still has so much upside.”
The Golden Age’s victory gave him a second career Group 3 victory; the My Risk gelding, formerly named Kontrastat, won the Prix La Rochette (1400m) at Saint-Cloud as a two-year-old. Before today, he had won two Class 2 handicaps at Happy Valley and placed in the Group 3 January Cup (1800m) and Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m) at his first 10 Hong Kong starts.
“I’m very happy with this horse, he’s a young horse improving all the time,” Cruz said.
“He’s a miler, probably not an 1800m or 2000m horse, and goes on any ground. Today was Joao’s first ride on the horse and, under a good ride from the front, he showed everyone how good this horse is.
“Beauty Only carried a big weight and I think he got beat by it, if he’d raced The Golden Age at set weights they would have been very close. One’s on the way down and one’s on the way up, though, so it could be different in six months’ time. As for Romantic Touch, he’s just an honest horse in these races.”
Cruz said that he is likely to press on to the Group 3 Premier Plate Handicap (1800m) with The Golden Age, but that Beauty Only is likely to rest now after a season in which he won the Group 2 Chairman’s Trophy (1600m) and finished fourth in the Group 1 Champions Mile from 11 starts.
“I’ll see how The Golden Age pulls up, but there’s a good chance he goes for the 1800m,” he said.
“The Golden Age is a bit of a rising star and he’ll make a nice horse next season. On the other hand, I think we are now seeing that Beauty Only is past his prime. We will freshen him for next season now and hopefully he might have another win left in him.”
Moreira’s victory on The Golden Age was part of a treble for the Brazilian rider, with the champion jockey also scoring aboard Magic Success and Mighty Maverick. Chief rival Zac Purton partnered a double with Magnetism and Comfort Life, giving Moreira a three-win lead in the jockeys’ championship as he begins a two-meeting suspension.
Moore on the fence about Werther’s Takarazuka Kinen bid
Meanwhile, John Moore admitted that the “jury’s out” about a Japanese trip with Werther (133lb) after the six-year-old finished sixth in the Lion Rock Trophy, four and a quarter lengths from the winner.
“He was further back than what I wanted and he then had serious traffic problems at two critical points,” Moore said.
“Beauty Only has kept him in a pocket at the 600m and then again in the straight. Callan has pushed our horse back in behind and under top-weight, he just couldn’t build up momentum. He ran home OK late and he’ll improve for that, but it was an inconclusive run and I’m not quite sure what to think at the moment.”
Moore has long targeted the Group 1 Takarazuka Kinen (2200m) at Hanshin on 24 June with Werther and says that he will make a decision in the coming week.
“He’s booked to fly out to Osaka Tuesday week so we’ll know by next weekend whether we go,” the trainer said.
“The initial indications are good physically, the first scope was clean, but it’s just hard to know how he’s going form-wise after today. The jury’s out, but the race in Japan will suit him so it’s a big decision to make.”
Racing continues at Happy Valley on Wednesday night (6 June).